Monday, January 25, 2010


Big Ideas:

  • It takes repeated experiences to internalize learning.
  • People need to learn to take an active role in their fate, not depend totally on intervention of others - even when the "other" is God.
  • In some situations people are unable to solve their own problems - they require the assistance of others
Questions to Think About and Try to Answer:
  • How is it possible that the Israelites were still complaining after what God had already done for them?
  • Why would God choose a route for the escaping Israelites that avoids confrontation with potential enemies?
  • What do you think God expects of these former slaves?  Is God's expectation reasonable?
  • In your opinion, do the Israelites live up to God's expectations?  Explain why you think they do or don't.
  • What is Moshe's role at this point in the story?  Do you think God is satisfied with Moshe's actions?  What is your evidence?
  • What are the implications for our lives today?
  • Is there anything in this parasha that can help you make sense of the tragedy in Haiti?

Learning Activites:

  • has an interesting focus for this week's parasha.  Watch the video for a thoughtful explanation of why the Israelites complain so much, and a perspective about the nature of their complaints.
  • The New York Times had an article about Israel's response to the earthquake in Haiti.  You can access the article by typing "For Israelis, Mixed Feelings on Aid Effort" in your search engine (Google or other.  Be sure to use the quotation marks around the title to find the article easily).  On the one hand there is praise for the speed and expertise that was evident in the way the Israeli team is working to save survivors of this tragedy.  There is also reference to a criticism within Israel - why is it that Israel can respond to the suffering in Haiti and not in Gaza?  Compare and contrast the situations by answering the following questions about each place:
    • What is the nature of the problem?
    • What are the causes for the problem?
    • Who is responsible for the problem?
    • Who is able to solve the problem?
    • Who is responsible for the solution?
    • What are the obstacles to a solution?
  • There is a midrash that says Yam Suf only split after the Israelites stepped in and the water came up to their nostrils.  What do you think that midrash wants us to understand?
  • Learners should be able to summarize the parasha
  • Learners should be able to apply the Jewish wisdom in this lesson to their own lives
  • Learners should be able to articulate some of the complex issues in the relationship between Israel and Gaza.
Note:  This parasha and others make a good case for the idea that everything - both good and bad - is intentionally caused by God.  The thought that our One God is responsible for everything has been an issue that Jews and those who follow religions based on Judaism (Christians and Moslems) have struggled with for as long as these religions have existed.  The issue is called "theodicy", a Greek term summarized by the following question:  If God is all-powerful and also good, why is there evil in the world?  You may want to read more about theodicy and how different Jewish thinkers respond to this tension.  I particularly recommend the book Sacred Fragments, by Dr. Neil Gillman.

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