The New Shul

Parshat Bo

This week’s parashah, Bo, tells the story of the final plagues in Egypt, and the negotiations that went with them. After the plague of darkness, Pharaoh offered to let the children of Israel go to worship God in the desert, as Moshe had demanded. But Pharaoh set one condition: that they leave most of their flocks behind as insurance that they would come back, and take only those animals that they would need to sacrifice. Moshe answered that they needed to take all of their flocks with them because they could not know which animals they would need to sacrifice until they reached their destination.

Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk interpreted Moshe’s answer as a lesson about spiritual spontaneity. The point, he taught, is that we can never know in advance exactly how we will be called upon to serve God. Religion cannot be reduced to hard-and-fast rules. Sometimes we need to be present in the moment before we can know what is truly demanded of us.

Often we look to religion to provide air-tight answers to our questions. But the world is too complicated for that, and an authentic religious life must make room for that complexity. The purpose of religion is not to teach fixed answers, but to sensitize us to what is asked of us in any given situation. The key is to internalize as much Torah as we can, which trains our hearts to hear the still-small voice of Sinai wherever we may find ourselves.

  • The New Shul’s Shabbat services are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush-lunch this Shabbat, January 12, will be sponsored by Carol Wolintz in honor of the bar mitzvah of her grandson Coby in New Jersey.
  • Childcare is available on Shabbat mornings from 10 am to noon.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am, and on Monday through Thursday evenings at 7 pm.
  • Join us for Friday night dinner at The New Shul on January 25, after the 6 pm service. The dinner will be catered by Stacy Andrews and members of The New Shul kiddush team. The cost is $18 per adult, and $9 per child under 18 (no charge for children under 5). Please send in your payment by Sunday January 20 to make your reservation. If you wish to pay on-line, you can do so here (please specify what it is for).
  • The annual meeting of The New Shul community is on Sunday February 3 at 10:30 am. All are welcome.