When the Israelites left Egypt they were destined for a land that they would rule. In fact much of the Torah and especially Sinai was meant to be a “manual” for settling in the Land of Israel. The “Promise” of Promised Land is in the possibility that we might be able to build a society that lives by the highest ethical standards spelled out at Sinai and for much of what comes after. Israel and the Jewish people for that matter are and have always been a work in progress; perhaps it begins with that never ending ancient journey.
So the question for Israelis today is how do we leave slavery and get closer to the best possible free selves we can be?
The modern state of Israel was founded on many of these principles but like every society we fall short, and we argue about it louder. As a Reform rabbi in a place where we struggle for recognition and acceptance, my journey is defined by leaving the “slavery” of sexism, racism, and fear of others, extremism to a place of inclusion, democracy, and more equality and justice. Slavery is fear and hopelessness, revelation is hope, compassion, and fairness. We continue to go back and forth, wherever we are, releasing ourselves from slaveries (old and new) and reaching for the essence of Sinai, where everyone sees the image of God in the other.
Rabbi Naamah Kelman was Ordained by HUC-JIR in Israel in 1992 and has devoted her career to strengthening the Reform Movement’s outreach, community organizing, and Jewish education. She has been intensely involved in the emerging education system of the IMPJ and was among the founders of the first Progressive Day School, where she has overseen the development of curricular materials, teacher training programs, and family education. At HUC-JIR/Jerusalem, she has strengthened the Year-In-Israel Program for North American first-year rabbinical, cantorial, and education students, advanced professional development for the Israeli Rabbinical Program, and has been a catalyst for new and innovative programs in the areas of pluralistic Jewish education and pastoral counseling. (biography pulled from here)