The book of Genesis/Bereshit is the story of how God chose Abraham, Sarah, and their descendants to be the tribe of Israel under one God. It is a book about individuals and fallibility, and about family conflict and personal angst. All that fits with a sort of adolescent connection to God - it's about 'me', the one person, and where 'I' fit.
But as we enter Exodus/Shemot at the beginning of January, the story of our Torah changes from the story of one man or woman; one family; into a story of a nation and a people that emerged from slavery to receive laws, journey through the desert, and establish a civilization in the promised land. It is us, growing up, as an interconnected community.
That community is responsible for itself and becoming free and independent. It is the young adult phase of the Jewish people - finding its identity while establishing boundaries and rules.
That overarching narrative is a good one for personal reflection for each of us to ask ourselves. As I evolve, what are my values and principles? As I grow, how do I balance freedom and responsibility? When do I shift in my own life from being focused on 'me' to being focused on the community around me?
A synagogue is a beautiful blend of unique individuals that each contributes their unique qualities to the collective, but also an interdependent network of folks that cooperate towards a greater goal. We take the lessons of Genesis with the lessons of Exodus. We endeavor to be good individuals, and simultaneously strive to create sacred community together.
- Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman
Rabbi Mark Asher Goodman is the spiritual leader of Brith Sholom Jewish Center in Erie, PA. These are a collection of thoughts and writings since he joined the community in Erie. For more of his past writings, click here.