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Are you properly armed?

Thursday, 21 January, 2016 - 12:47 pm


Before going to war, one would arm themselves with intelligence and weaponry.  In the beginning of this week’s Parshah, it is written: "... the children of Israel were armed when they went up out of Egypt." The subsequent verse tells us: "Moses took Joseph's bones with him".

Torah comes from the root of the word Horaah which means “instruction.”   The Torah is exact in every detail. The verses being next to each other is not by chance but by design. The Torah is adding meaning and a message for all time. 

The word for bones in Hebrew is Atzmot (Ayin-Tzaddi-Mem-Vov-Tof). Instead of using a more respectful word to describe the transfer of Joseph's remains, words like casket, box or remains, the Torah uses the word Etzem - meaning bones. 

Etzem also means essence and core. We can now translate the verses in a different manner and use it to give us a life lesson: The children of Israel were armed, they took the essence of Joseph with them. 

The essence of Joseph is seen in his name: Yosef, add. His mother said G-d should add for me another child.   Joseph has the ability to make from an other - someone who is against - into a child.

When the Jewish people went into a "great and awesome desert, [in which were] snakes, vipers and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water;" they armed themselves accordingly. Similarly, when we enter a place where there are things contrary to Torah values, we need remain protected. We need to maintain the ability to make the adversary into a child, part of the family.

Joseph lived most of his life in Egypt and remained true to his values. Joseph used the adversarial Egypt to provide food for his family. We need to be part of the world, live in it and transform it into a child of G-d, a home for G-d.

Happy building (snowmen) and a home for G-d,

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman


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