Showing posts from January, 2015

What Plagues Us

Parashat Va’eira 2015  Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz 
What Plagues Us 
Blood - dam, frogs – tzefardea, lice - kinim, wild animals - arov, pestilence - dever , boils - shichin, hail – barad. Those are the plagues of parashat Va’eira, seven in total, with three more – arbeh (locusts), chosech (darknesss), makkat bechorot (death of the firstborn) in the next parashah, parashat Bo. 
We are so used to encountering the plagues in a very specific context: the Pesach seder. Did anyone else feel like dipping their finger in their wine and dabbing it on their napkin as I read them out? The plagues remind us of schmutzy haggadot accruing wine stains and matzah crumbs. These Pesach associations can hold a lot of fondness but they do manage to detract us from the core message of Va’eira. No plague finger puppets today (as cute as they may be). Now is the time to leave the gimmicks behind. 
To be fair, the Torah itself gets a little gimmicky about these plagues. So Moses’ staff turns into a snake, and the…

Finishing Well

Parashat Vayechi  Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz  Finishing Well 
Now that the chanukkiyot are packed away, the candlewax has been scraped from window sills, the dinners, the Season’s post cards, the gift wrappings, champagne corks and fireworks are behind us, what we have left to reflect on are not only our expanded waistlines but the family relationships we built during the winter Holiday Season. 
There’s a certain greyness to early January. The festivities have died down and this could be a time of quite reflection, of acknowledging our mortality in deep winter, alongside icy roads and bare branches. Reflecting on endings and death, even of a cyclical nature, allows us to shape our own response to it. It’s OK, I suppose, to embrace the darkness a little, to acknowledge the coldness in our bones and to feel the tilt of the world towards decay. The question then is how we relate to these relationships around us. 
Many of us have spent time with family (and friends) in various guises and to va…