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Shabbat Bo 5780 Dvar Torah from Rabbi Saul I. Grife

"One Can Only Imagine!"

The Talmud in Pirke Avot 2:5 teaches,

Do not judge others until you stand in their situation!

Since it is literally impossible to fully relate to another person standing in any situation, Judaism seems to encourage us not to ever judge others!

This week, I want to share with you the situations of 1 individual and 2 groups of people who have emerged across our horizons whose predicaments lie beyond us...

Parshat HaShavuah, the Torah portion of the week is Bo, from Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus 10:1 - 13:16. "Bo" means "come", referring to God who told Moshe to go to Pharaoh to demand of the Egyptian leader to free the Israelites from their bondage.

One. Let us try and imagine what Moshe was experiencing. First he was bewildered at the sight of the Burning Bush when he first encountered God. Then he reluctantly accepted the task of being Israel's liberator, only agreeing to take on the mission after God agreed to allow his elder brother Aaron join him to perform as his spokesman. What must Moshe have been thinking as he anticipated approaching the greatest ruler on earth of his time with the audacity to demand in the name of the Lord God to "let His people go!"

Moshe had to dealwith an arrogant Pharaoh and an uncooperative band of Israelites. The enslaved people blamed Moshe for the added rigors they endured at the start of the process of liberation. They could not relate to this God that they couldn't see. Pharaoh could have ended Moshe's life at anytime. We see how strong Moshe's faith in God and his goal must have been for him to have worked it until completion. After the 10th plague, the slaying of the Egyptian first-born, the Israelites departed Egypt. But their troubles were far from over. They had to survive the crisis at the Red Sea, then deal with Revelation at Mt. Sinai when they thought that God's presence and power would overwhelm and kill them, they wander 40 years in the desert laboring under a constant worry over water and food. How Moshe found the vision, fortitude and determination to see all this through is astonishing. But he did, and thanks to his efforts and his belief in God, we were redeemed, received the Torah and made our way to Canaan, the Promised Land.

Let this story of Moshe inspire us to identify a great sense of strength, vision and focus within ourselves when we need it the most! As Christian Larson wrote,

Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle!

Two.   Let us try and imagine what the Israelites must have experienced during enslavement and the beginning stages of their freedom. The text tells us that they were living under the harshest of conditions, so much so that their spirits were broken. When Moshe summoned them to share his belief in God and his faith that they would one day be redeemed, they were unable to do so. They were bewildered by the occurrence of the 10 plagues, fearing they would be smitten too. They believed the Egyptians would slaughter them at the Red Sea, even though Moshe reminded them that God hadn't brought them this far to abandon them. They feared for their lives during Revelation. And they constantly worried about the perceived lack of water and food in the desert. Middle Age Biblical commentators rebuke the generation known as the "Dor HaMidbar" (the generation of the wilderness) for their lack of faith in God and their destiny. But this week we can ask ourselves, "How would we have behaved if we were there? Would we have bought into Moshe's vision and plan? Or would we have acted like so many others who doubted God and Moshe's intentions every step of the way? This Shabbat, let us appreciate the roles that Moshe and his faith in God played to redeem our people and bring them into freedom! One way we can do that is to appreciate the freedoms we enjoy here as Americans and to fight for freedom for all others who are searching for greater rights. May we contribute to the welfare of America and its founding spirit as the "land of the free and the home of the brave!"

Three. On January 27th, the Jewish people and the world commemorated the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp dating back to 1945. Jews and dignitaries from all over the world visited Auschwitz to remember. During the Holocaust, almost 1 million Jews were murdered at Auschwitz.

On March 27th, 1942, the first transport of Jews entered Auschwitz, comprised of 997 teenage girls who were told that they were being transported there to make shoes.

In fact, the girls' real job was not to make shoes but to build the infrastructure that would convert Auschwitz from a prisoner of war camp to a death camp. Over the year they were brutally forced to demolish old building with their bare hands, empty trash out of frozen lakes and build dozens of new barracks. For clothing, they were given the bloody uniforms of dead Soviet soldiers and a few striped dresses. Their entire bodies were shaved; their shoes were flat pieces of wood with flimsy cloth ties.

Later the girls were forced to carry dead bodies to the crematoria. Most of the girls died in that first year. Frieda Grossman, one who survived who is now in her '90's, remembered watching her sister being taken to the crematoria. "She was a beautiful girl", Frieda said through tears, "And now nothing is left of her".

Freida revealed that other survivors treated victims that possessed low numbered tattoos with suspicion. They surmised that they must have done bad things against the Jews to survive. Grossman's number was 1,970.

In the 1970's the Shoah (Holocaust) Foundation learned that 22 of the girls of that first transport to Auschwitz survived the war. 6 are still alive today.

In the Holocaust, the Nazis aimed at robbing the Jews of every aspect of their humanity so that when they killed them there remained little left to take. What must it have felt like for the survivors of Auschwitz to have returned to the spot where they lived sub-human lives, bringing their new lives, their new families and their humanity with them now? One can only imagine!!

Friedman Grossman has one message for the world...

Don't hate. Because hate brings criminality and hate brings death. I saw it. I was there.

I cannot be prouder of our BTBJ community for displaying the words of

 ...  Love your neighbor as yourself. No exceptions...

on our front lawn for all passersby to see. These words from the Torah say it all!

In conclusion, both the stories of Parshat Bo and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz remind us of the challenges and the hell that others have suffered in this lifetime. Therefore, let us respond by appreciating our freedoms and the lives we lead. Let us respond by seeking to uplift others and secure the same rights and blessings for them that we enjoy!

Let us tread very carefully when it comes to judging others, for as Pirke Avot teaches, no one can truly stand in the place of another and understand what they are really experiencing!!

Shabbat Shalom u'mevorach to all!!

This Shabbat our Daf Yomi is Berachot 29.

We are offering 3 Daf Yomi classes next week. Come find out what all the excitement is about and join us!

Mon, February 17 2020 22 Shevat 5780