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Joseph Katz - Dvar Torah

This week’s parshah, Beshalach, raises a number of important ideas and concepts.

The story concerns the Israelites leaving Egypt to arrive in the promised land, their safe haven.

This was their safe place from the tyranny of the leaders of Egypt; that is Pharoah and his soldiers.

At one point on their journey the fleeing Israelites seeking freedom arrived at what is now known as the Red Sea. They were being chased by the Egyptians.

A miracle occurred and the sea opened allowing the Israelites to escape being captured and slaughtered.

As soon as they had passed through the parted sea that open sea closed. Most, if not all the chasing Egyptians drowned.

The story makes one consider whether Hashem actually took sides in the dispute or contests between two different groups.

That question reminds me of those sporting heroes who after having won the World Cup, the FA Cup, or the Currie Cup thank all mighty for being on their side. Really, I ask does Hashem care whether Western Province or the Blue Bulls win the Currie Cup. Or for that matter whether the Springboks or the All Backs win the rugby World Cup. I think not.

It raises the tough question of how Hashem could have “allowed’’ the mass slaughter of one group by another during the Holocaust or other genocide.

Does Hashem choose one group above another during dark time? I am in no position to answer these questions.

But I do conclude that each human has a right to freedom. We are born free. And with that freedom comes responsibility. A responsibility to be kind to all others. We should not discriminate or be harsh to others just because they are not like us.

I’d like to end by mentioning a boy who I have twinned with in having my barmitzvah. His name is Joseph (like me) Wolff. He was born on 30 August 1931 in Aurich, Germany. Joseph Wolff never had the privilege or opportunity to celebrate a bar mitzvah.

On 28 October 1942 Joey Wolff was deported from Berlin. He was sent to Auschwitz on 19 October 1944, where he was murdered for one, and only one reason. He was different - he was Jewish.

Perhaps if we take our own freedom seriously, we will also be responsible and take the freedom and lives of others seriously.


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