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The Book of Names

by Rabbi Matt January 16, 2015

As a people, we rarely appear cognizant of the following fun-damental Jewish belief — we stand on holy ground. Our source? The Torah teaches us in Exodus 3. We stand on HOLY ground, as opposed to HOLEY ground. Sacred ground as op-posed to ground with holes (although we have many).

On January 9, we begin Sefer Shemot - the book of Exodus - the literal He-brew is the “book of names.” Exodus begins with the names of those who ac-companied Jacob to Egypt. We learn Joseph and all his generation had died, and that a new Pharaoh arose in Egypt who did not know Joseph. How could a king not know of Joseph? Rashi comments, the king feigned to know nothing of Joseph’s merits and had no gratitude for Joseph’s accomplishments during the famine.

The portion continues with the birth of Moses. He is cast afloat in a basket by his sister Miriam, raised as a prince and does gallant acts in defense of jus-tice. He shows solidarity with his oppressed brethren, and takes flight to the land of Midian. In Midian, he meets the daughters of Jethro at a well, defends them against Arab shepherds trying to push aside the young women, and ulti-mately marries Zipporah.

In chapter 3, Moses arrives at the burning bush. He looks up and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire out of the bush and yet the bush was not consumed. God called to him out of the midst of the burning bush. "Moses, Moses!" Moses replied, “Hineni!” “Here I am!” Then God said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.”

Why remove your sandals? There are many comments. My favorite is by removing the sandals which he wore everyday and standing in his bare feet, Moses symbolically abandoned his routine personality and transcended to a higher level of awareness. This teaches, that Godliness is not only in some far off place, but is right here where each person stands. If we attempt to turn our ordinary place into a meeting place with God, it too can become holy ground, like the ground upon which Moses stood.

How do we turn our place on earth into a meeting place with God? As Jews we do this through mitzvot, through commandments — our day-to-day actions

Allow me to express gratitude to all of those who labor to make the ground at Temple Israel Ner Tamid into “holy ground.” Thank you to our officers, board members, religious school teachers, volunteers, congregants, temple administrator and maintenance staff. The Annual Meeting is an excellent opportunity to hear the state of our congregation and to voice your support, questions and/or concerns. You are cordially invited to attend on Sunday morning, January 25. We begin after the religious school students re dismissed to their classes: 9:15 a.m. Nosh (please bring $1 to offset the costs); 9:30 a.m. Annual Meeting. We will conclude before 11:30 a.m.

Also, please read this Temple IsraeLight carefully; it is filled with announcements, ideas and requests for your ac-tive participation at services, tzedakah, adult education, socializing, fundraising and interfaith activities.

God, give us the courage to sanctify Your name through mitzvot. Then, we will be partners with You in the ongoing work of creating “holy ground.”

Kol tuv (all the best) and shalom.

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