As you have read in President Sue Weinberg’s congregational letter, we are switching our congregational life from in-person services and activities to online activities in accordance with an evidence-based policy of social distancing.
Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
About Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
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Parashat Mishpatim is a perfect storm. Opening the book of Exodus during volatile political times is an exercise in confirmation bias in the best of cases, but Mishpatim speaks to our current reality – in an election year, no less – in uncanny ways.
Like many of you, I’ve been following the headlines about the Coronavirus outbreak. While I leave assessments of this new virus to the epidemiologists and public health experts, I think we can glean meaningful insights about our moral responses by reading between the headlines.
I am a newcomer to this beautiful country, an immigrant, a Jewish leader in a time of rising anti-Semitism and a white woman who is yearning to learn about the African American experience as well as reckon with the legacy of her own skin color. We who walk with both a sense of vulnerability as well as our own privilege are called to embrace our complexities and contradictions.
Now that the chanukkiyot are packed away, the candlewax has been scraped from window sills, the dinners, the Season’s post cards, the gift wrappings, champagne corks and fireworks are behind us, what we have left to reflect on are not only our expanded waistlines but the family relationships we built during the winter Holiday Season.
The portion opens with a crisis: Isaac marries Rebecca and they, like Abraham and Sarah, are confronted with infertility. It only takes three verses to paint a complete picture of their marriage, their challenges and their much-wanted pregnancy.
It’s not just the tryptophan in the turkey; there is an unmistakable mellowness to a Thanksgiving dinner that feels Shabbosdik: where people take the time to relax, talk, eat and savor the company of loved ones. Not only that, it is one of the few American holidays where this country – of incessant consumption and entrepreneurism – shuts down, in the best possible way.