Vaera - weekly Torah portion

Moses hears from God a great vision and is asked to deliver it to the Israelites. “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession; I am the Lord.” A nation of slaves is going to be a free People, relieved from the burdens imposed upon them by others. From deep distress to a place that is supposed to bring relief. But the people, the people “did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage.”

Two huge boulders stood before the Israelites preventing them to understand. Their despondency made them unable to listen about some potential better future. They want it to end here and now. When it is understood that there is a process, something which may take time, there is not much patients to listen to what is being said, or feel the uplift from the inspiring promise, which of course we, the readers who know how the story unfolds, feel for them. The second boulder is that of the cruel bondage that is enough to prevent them from understanding and identifying the opportunity that lays ahead of them, a vision that one should join in with and make it happen as fast as possible.

These days it is unlikely to find ourselves toiling in that kind of hard labor, and we are of course much freer than those Hebrew slaves. However, way too often we find ourselves enslaved to the present as it is because of its hardships and challenges, and avoid spinning the wheels of change. We find that for ourselves, our families, our congregations and yes, even for our nations. On a personal basis we may find ourselves in a job that for all sense and purpose has expired for us but still are unwilling to spread our wings and instill change. It is too difficult, to complicated, and many more valid and good reasons why to stick with the past, rather than confront the challenges of the future. We certainly see that at the State level, especially at time when the head of state is less to our liking. It is so easy to despair, surrender, talk much and do little. When we take this approach it is unreasonable to expect positive change to occur. Rather, we should promote and lead the change instead of being dragged through the gutter by change that sweeps us aimlessly.

In order to promote change it is necessary, from time to time, to create a new vision, a vision that is exciting and inspiring, a vision that challenges us, a vision where it is not fully clear how it can be achieved, but that we can see somewhere in the far distance passages and ways to getting there. In the book of Proverbs, chapter 29, 18, we find “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.” We also read (25) that “The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” It is essential to believe if you want to have a successful and uplifting vision. It is the fear that makes us fail unable to realize our potential, it is placing a boulder by ourselves for ourselves. It is therefore our responsibility to create a vision that is challenging, that has deep roots, that allows us to overcome our fears and build the necessary confidence that we can achieve meaningful results.

The board of IMPJ, recognizing the need for a vision for the Movement, has developed the Strategic Plan 2020 the core of which called for the Movement to achieve many more contact points with the Israeli society at-large and in many positive ways. This has been happening, continue to happen as we speak, and will continue into the future. Testimony to the success of the plan is the ability to achieve what seemed at the time an insurmountable obstacle, doubling the number of Reform congregations in Israel. Three years ahead of the target and we are just almost there. The recently elected board of IMPJ is now embarking on the development of the Strategic Plan 2025 knowing fair-well that it must objectively check past results, face the future without fear, and with a vision that is rooted deep in on our Reform values of Erets Israel. And with confidence that despite of the inevitable uncertainties we will be able to overcome obstacles, push away those mountainous boulders, and have the patients to complete the work ahead of us, even when it includes hard labor.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov.

Reuven Marko, 27 January 2017, 1 Shevat, 5777

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