Friday, January 27, 2012

D'var Torah for Torah Portion BO


Lizz Goldstein, Rabbinical Intern

As you all know by now, I am not from this area. I grew up outside New Haven, CT, which does not have a professional sports team. We have out New Haven Ravens baseball, and the UConn Huskies basketball always riles everybody up, and we have the best thin crust pizza in the world. But we don’t have a national point of pride, so instead we’ve become the battle ground for the great Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.

In my home, the Yankees won that fight. My parents took my brother and I to a few games when we were kids, before my dad figured out that my brother and I were more excited for stadium nachos and the souvenir helmet that ice cream sundaes came in than the games themselves. There’s one trip to Yankee Stadium in particular that will live in infamy in our family. I was probably 9 or 10, making my brother and our neighbor Brittany about 12, just age kids start needing to sleep til noon, and girls start needing an hour to do their hair, even if it’s just to spend a sweaty summer day watching baseball.

As the adults were starting to get shpielkes to get on the road, Brittany finally sprinted out of the house and into the car. I don’t remember if there was argument about time management, or how far into the ride it took her to reassess her preparations for the game. But at some point, we were all forced to take note of how she had been spending those last minutes before darting into the car. She was decked out in her fan gear: shirt and shorts and her windbreaker baggy pants over her shorts all imprinted with the Yankees logo. Her hair straightened and brushed and pretty in its ponytail, and on her feet…. Nothing.

I don’t recommend walking Yankee stadium barefoot. Or any sports arena of any kinds. The adults, in their disgust and concern for Brittany’s feet, searched souvenir booths for Yankees flip-flops, just to have something to put on her feet! But amongst all the other random souvenir junk, it seems that shoes have not been stamped with Yankee approval and set for sale.

The search climaxed in one question by one kiosk salesman that really encapsulated the issue of poor planning. “Two pants, no shoes?” We gave up looking then, because the man had a point, two pants, no shoes? How could Brittany have forgotten something so vital in her haste, when her haste was self-imposed anyway.

In this week’s Torah portion, the Israelites flee Egypt in haste and do not have time to leaven their dough. Their hurry is mandated by Pharoah and G-d, and the result has become the most symbolic representation of our liberation. But couldn’t a tastier representation of freedom than matzah? In all that time that Moses is in talks with the Pharoah, didn’t the Israelites think to prepare? Did they know it was going to take all ten plagues, but didn’t know they would have to exit swiftly after the tenth?

If they had the time and resources to make the bread at all, despite their slave status, why didn’t they start during the first or second plague and stockpile baked good as noshes for the road? The Torah really doesn’t offer any information or details on the Israelite people. All we really know, is that they’re slaves, and that they are spared some of the horrors of the plagues. But more had to be going on while the story focuses on Moses and Pharoah. Did the Israelites find blood in their water, or frogs in their beds? Exodus 8:19 specifies that G-d put up a division between the Israelites and the Egyptians to protect his people from the swarms of wild beasts, but it doesn’t seem like anyone tells them that. Did they know that they were protected, or were they afraid despite their safety? Or were they so divided that they didn’t even know what was happening on the Egyptian side at all?

Answers to these questions would really help explain why they didn’t or perhaps couldn’t prepare ahead for their hurried escape and their arduous journey to follow. One thing is certain, though, I don’t want to end up in the desert with only matzah or at Yankee stadium with two pants, no shoes. And probably, neither do you. So despite our self-perpetuating sterotype of running on “Jew time,” maybe a lesson here, the lost Jewish value, is time management!

When you get ready for your day, or better yet, the night before, think about your upcoming events and possible sidetracks and outcomes of each day. Prioritize the activities you spend time on. Is it more important to do your hair or put on shoes? Do you want that extra ten minutes of sleep, or you do want to be certain to make the bus? After a hard day’s work (ie as slaves), do you really need to immediately crash, or can you spend the time to prepare for tomorrow (put your leavening in now), in case tomorrow ends up being more rushed than you expected. If you just think ahead a bit, you might find yourself much more prepared for life’s curveballs, and you are more likely to be on schedule and fully dressed or fed for important events, like baseball, and freedom, and being on time for services at Temple Beth Emeth.

So in the future, may you never yourself asking, “Two pants, no shoes?”