Exodus

Shemot 2:13 – “When he went out the next day, he found two Hebrews fighting, so he said to the offender, “’Why do you strike your fellow?’” 

  • This incident follows Moses interceding on behalf of the Hebrew slave who was beaten by theEgyptian taskmaster. Why does the Torah record this second instance of Moses standing up for the wronged? Isn’t striking down the Egyptian sufficient evidence of Moses’ courage and commitment to justice. Perhaps the second instance is brought to teach us that pursuing justice is not only called for when your people are being abused by an outsider but also when one member of your community is being abused by another member of your community. Injustice within “the family” is still injustice.JCADA helps us to realize, in our own community, the principle enshrined in the parasha. In justice within “the family” is still injustice. We cannot stand idly by when far too many Jewish women in our community are abused by their spouses and other relatives. Domestic abuse is “our business”. 

Va’eira 6:6-8 – “Say therefore to the Israelite people: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptian and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm… and I will give it to you for a possession, I the Lord.’”

  • Free you, deliver you, redeem you, take you bring you. This passage reminds us that redemption is not achieved in one fell swoop but is a several stage process involving escape from both physical and spiritual bondage. So too is leaving an abusive relationship a several step process. JCADA reminds us that there must be safety planning, the decision to leave, processing of grief, and the battle to establish a new life. The victim must be helped every step of the way. 

Bo 13:8 – “And you shall explain to your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I went free from Egypt.’” 

  • The mitzvah of telling the story of the Exodus on Pesach is repeated three times in this parasha (and one other time in Devarim). Why must this mitzvah be repeated so many times? Perhaps, it’s because our story of redemption is a painful one to tell. We must, as the Mishna instructs us, begin with shame. Slavery was a dark chapter in our national story. No one relishes retelling and reliving our degradation. And yet, the greater the gloom of degradation, the greater the light of redemption.JCADA’s outreach efforts are inspired by this mitzvah of the seder night. Telling the story of domestic abuse in the Jewish community is not easy. It is a dark and painful tale. And yet, JCADA must begin with this shame in order to explain the redemptive role it plays in the lives of the victims of domestic abuse. The work of JCADA is not depressing. The work of JCADA is uplifting and inspiring. 

Beshalach 14:29 – “But the Israelites had marched through the sea on dry ground…” 

  • According to a Midrash, Nachshon ben Aminadav, head of the tribe of Judah, was the first to step into the sea, even before it parted. His demonstration of faith brought on the miracle of the splitting of the sea. Taking the first step forward into the dark sea of the unknown opens the path to redemption. For the victims of domestic abuse, taking the first step forward, contacting JCADA or reaching out to your rabbi, opens the path to personal redemption as well.

Mishpatim 21:24 – “Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” 

  • Rabbinic tradition understood this verse to mean that the aggressor must compensate the victim for the monetary value of his limb that was injured. In addition, the Talmud mandates that the victim be compensated for medical expenses, pain endured, shame experienced and wages lost.We can see in this well-worked out system of justice a deep understanding of the suffering of the victim of violence. Certainly, we, as heirs to this great tradition of justice, must bring a deep understanding of the victims of domestic abuse. 

Terumah 25:11- “Overlay it with pure gold inside and out…” 

  • Our Sages saw in this verse about the ark of the covenant an admonition to the talmid chacham, the learned Jew. As he is “gold/pious” on the outside (publicly), he must also be “gold/pious” on the inside (privately). Clearly, the Sages understood the propensity for religious Jews to deceive those around them with the outward trappings of piety.All too often, in cases of domestic abuse, the Jewish abuser will present himself to the larger community as a pillar of virtue. Many will be fooled and ignore the pleas of the victim when she tells what happens behind closed doors. 

Tetzaveh 27:20 –  “You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly.”

  • This verse is the source for the practice of hanging a “Eternal Light” above the ark in the synagogue.The term “Eternal Light” or Ner Tamid in Hebrew is a bit misleading. It suggests that the light stays lit eternally on its own. Instead, the verse in our parasha makes clear that the Hebrew word tamid (continually, eternally) is describing the actions of the Israelites and not the light itself.This point of Hebrew grammar offers a valuable spiritual lesson. In shining a light on the dark places of the world, we must be ever vigilant. Once the light fades, the doers of evil will feel free to take advantage of the innocent. JCADA is the constant light in our community on the scourge of domestic abuse. It must never be diminished. 

Ki Tissa 30:12 – “V’nat’noo” 

  • This Hebrew word, which means “each shall give/pay” is a palindrome, spelled the same way from right to left as it is from left to right. This reminds us that giving is also receiving.We should never see ourselves, when we give, as being on a higher plane, the stronger bestowing mercy on the weaker. Rather, we should always be open to receiving back from the one we are helping. Victims of domestic abuse have a great deal of strength and wisdom to share.

Vayakhei 35:3 – “You shall kindle no fire throughout your settlements on the Sabbath day.” 

  • A Chasidic insight: “Why does the verse add, ‘throughout your settlements’ to the mitzvah-to teach us that we should not add anger, hurtful speech, and gossip to our community on Shabbat?” This important warning against abuses of the tongue is clearly regarding hurtful and hateful speech. It should not be used as an excuse for refraining to believe someone when they report abuses of the body and the soul. Sadly, all too often, victims of domestic abuse will share with someone else, even clergy, their painful plight and the confidant will do nothing for fear of engaging in gossip. A fire is burning inside a home and extinguishing that fire takes precedence.

Pikudey 40:35 – “Moses could enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it and the presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle.”

  • Chaim Potok writes in the Etz Hayim Commentary, “The book of Exodus which opened with a narrative of misery and oppression, closes on a note of confidence and hope.” The subject of domestic abuse, which is a dark secret our community keeps, can be a source of light and hope.JCADA is writing a new book of Exodus for our day.