On Tuesday night, August 26, the "spiritual pre-season," leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, began. We celebrated the first day of Elul, the Hebrew month during which Jews traditionally examine their behavior and contemplated self-improvement.
During the merry celebration of Purim this upcoming Saturday night and Sunday, children and even adults will wear masks and costumes. Masks echo the theme of concealment in the Purim story itself, which we will read in the Scroll of Esther.
God’s initial revelation to the Israelites at Mount Sinai, when He uttered the Ten Commandments, was accompanied by lightning, thunder and shofar blasts that inspired the soul. The inspiration lasted just forty days.
“Right is might” civilizations mistreat vulnerable people—slaves, strangers, widows, orphans and the poor. This week’s Torah portion obligates us to see to the material well-being of these disadvantaged groups. Equally important is the support we provide through empathy.
After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and emerged victorious in the war against Amalek, Moses’ father-in-law Jethro joined them in the wilderness. Our Torah portion recounts how he was welcomed by the congregation:
“Aaron and all the elders of Israel came to eat bread with Moses’ father-in-law before God.” (Exodus 18, 12.) The commentator Rashi wonders “Where was Moses?” He concludes that Moses was occupied himself with serving the meal (rather than eating with Aaron, Jethro and the elders.) One can imagine that Moses also saw to the preparation of the meal.