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January 16, 2014 - Image 35

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2014-01-16

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spirituality >> Torah portion

Ster Forward at

Taking The

1,— —I

Parshat Yitro: Exodus 18:1-20:23;
Isaiah 6:1-7:6; 9:5-9:6.


etting married can be scary.
Even when a relationship is full
of love, trust and passion, even
when neither member of the couple has
second thoughts, getting married poses
an apparent threat to our sense of self.
Engaged couples often wonder: Will we
lose our independence? Will we become
someone different? These concerns are
common and understand-
able: It is no small thing
to commit to sharing a life
But being married can be
amazing, a source of joy and
strength. Instead of making
us into someone different,
a strong relationship can
allow us to become our
best selves because we have
someone to bring out the
best in us. Instead of losing
independence, we gain —
because together, we can
do more than we can alone.
Our partner's strengths can balance our
"You speak to us, and we will listen, but
let God not speak with us, lest we die
the Israelites said to Moses during their
encounter with God at Mount Sinai. The
immediate context suggests that their
senses were overloaded by flashes of light
and overwhelming sounds. But was the
problem solely with God's lightning and
thunder? Would earplugs and sunglasses
have made the experience more bearable?
Surely, behind their expressed concern
about God's voice lay an unspoken fear
about entering into a relationship with
God: that they would lose themselves
in God's presence, that doing God's will
meant sacrificing their unique personality.
And on a superficial level, the Torah
justifies their concerns. When God spoke
to Pharaoh through Moses, his message
was clear: "Let My people go so that they

may serve Me!" The people were leaving
slavery, but were not really being set free
— independence was not in their future.
Their identity would be shaped by God,
by the Torah and the mitzvot. Just as a
soon-to-be-married young adult might
be daunted by the perceived sacrifices
involved in getting married, the Israelites
may have been gripped by a fear of hear-
ing God's direct voice — not
just because of the volume, but
because of the commitment it
We, looking back at those
Israelites, can understand their
fears. We, too, know that living
a meaningful, serious Jewish life
takes commitment. The Jewish
calendar dictates our calendar.
Jewish values affect what we eat
and how we treat others. Getting
a Jewish education — for our-
selves and our children — takes
time and money. Looking in
on such a life or hesitating to
deepen our commitment, we can think
only about the sacrifices that a relation-
ship with God and Torah entail.
But living a meaningful, serious Jewish
life, like a good marriage, can be an
amazing source of joy and strength. If we
could have encouraged those Israelites,
we would have told them how the mitzvot
help us to be our best selves, how the
Torah can free us from the enslavement
of materialism, and how Shabbat and the
holidays give us time to connect to God
and each other, allowing us a chance to
actively renew our most important rela-
Thankfully, our ancestors took the
plunge. May we never fail to do the
same. ❑

Rabbi Jonathan Berger is the ray belt hasefer
(rabbi-in-residence) of Hillel Day School of
Metropolitan Detroit in Farmington Hills.

• Can you think of a commitment you've made that was daunting at first,
but seems invaluable now?
• What holds us back from deepening our personal relationships?
• What keeps us from deepening our relationships with God and Torah?

learning about our caring community

Sunday, February 2, 2014

9:45 a.m.

Temple Israel • 5725 Walnut Lake Rd. • West Bloomfield

Questions? Contact Gail at Federation's Alliance for Jewish Education
248.205.2536 • greenberg@jfmd.org


Lei* Jima"

Maki ni
gad fnc
ere e.

Metro Detroit
Board of Jewish

(c\ Jewish Federation


for Jewish


6029 Rochester Road I Troy, MI 48085 I 248-828-7474

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January 16 • 2014


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