Before this week's parashah presents the high drama of seven out of ten of the plagues with which God smites Egypt, Hashem reminds Moshe about the promises God made to the people of Israel. In a pep talk of sorts, Hashem reaffirms the commitment to the sacred covenant with Bnei Yisrael and restates that Hashem is the God who will take the Jewish nation out from under the subjugation in Egypt (Shemot 6:7). In a fascinating piece, Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaCohen Kook notes that the Hebrew word for "who will take out" mirrors that word in a familiar blessing we recite almost daily-Hamotzi. Rav Kook then examines the relationship between God's promise to extract the Israelites from Egypt and the blessing over bread in which we praise Hashem for bringing forth bread from the earth. With the blessing over bread, we recognize the transformation that takes place in the production of this most essential food, the symbol of sustenance and nourishment. Bread, in its edible form, does not come forth from the earth. Rather, the raw and unprocessed wheat sprouts from the ground and through refinement and work, the raw material become useful, and integral, for human existence. The blessing over bread recognizes both the natural blossoming of the wheat and the transcendent potential that the wheat realizes. The People of Israel resemble the wheat and the bread, both components of the Hamotzi blessing. When God redeems them from Egypt, the Jewish nation is the raw material that has yet to be transformed into its sacred potential. Once Hashem brings the Israelite slaves forth from Egypt, the hard work of refining the nation through Torah and mitzvot begins. Through this process, begun with the time in the wilderness and through a four-thousand-year ongoing commitment to Jewish heritage, the Jewish People fulfills an essential purpose in the world to be a light unto the nations and to model holiness and a connection to God.
The Hamotzi word that connotes the transformative power to change raw materials into something of tremendous and sacred possibility resonates for me every day in Akiba. Whether watching our early childhood students collecting twigs and leaves for art or visiting in a fourth grade class for a parashah lesson, whether seeing our 7 th graders dissect chicken feet or visiting our 3 rd graders hunt for words in the siddur, I watch with amazement at the tiny transformations that take place in our classrooms every single day. You have entrusted us with your most precious raw materials and we have the honor, privilege and responsibility in helping refine each and every child to reach the potential that he or she has to contribute to our people.