Outside or Inside? Parashat Bo: Being a Jew Everywhere!
If you want to learn about the essence of the Jewish People you should consider reading Parashat Bo.
Two characteristics in defining something can be:
1- Limits – What is inside and what is outside!
2- How do you connect it with “others”?
In this Torah portion we learn about the mitzvah (the commandment) of Mezuzah, which here comes in the context of “Passover” as a symbol for our houses to be skipped by the terrible plagues that whipped Egypt.
The Mezuzah symbolizes a “Limit”, the delineation between what is inside and what is outside. The virtual boundary to the way you define your home, your values, practices, members, etc.
The Mezuzah is also your message to the outside: Hey there! I’m a Jew!
What initially was a symbol of physical protection today is an invitation to spiritual integrity.
So what about what’s going on “there” – outside!?
Let’s start that with the origins… The mezuzah symbolizes an inner definition but not external disconnection; we learn this from the Passover Seder itself, where we remember the plagues OUTSIDE, those which the Egyptians suffered, and we symbolically remove from our cup a drop of wine for each plague using a fingertip. The sages explain that one cannot be completely joyous when some of God’s creatures had to suffer. This is a later tradition, however the parasha itself has another thing that frames the connection with “the other”:
There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who resides in your midst. תּוֹרָה אַחַת יִהְיֶה לָאֶזְרָח וְלַגֵּר הַגָּר בְּתוֹכְכֶם (Exodus 12:49)
This means that there is no room for double ethics in Judaism; we are committed by law to respect the other, recognizing his different identity, with the same value and parameters we think about ourselves.
The same Mezuzah – Torah which obligates the interior also obligates us toward the exterior… This is maybe the balance and the connection between Tikun Atzmi (the reparation of yourself) and Tikun olam (the reparation of the world). It’s when based on knowing well who we are we meet others with sensitivity, empathy and love. Why? Because our law- torah according to the Jewish tradition is a divine gift! When Hillel Hazaken (the elder) was asked to synthesize the whole Torah in one sentence he said: ‘That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole of the Torah, The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.’ (Shabbat 31a).
May we find in the words of Torah a source of power to define and build our homes and a bridge of love and empathy to connect and respect others.