Voices for WRJ: Parashat Va-eira
by Ellen Petracco
The second reading from the book of Exodus and fourteenth reading from the Torah is named Va’eira, which means “And I appeared.” The title comes from the first words of the second verse of the reading, which says, “And I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty (Exodus 6:3).” The portion begins with four expressions of redemption whereby God promises to bring Israel out of the Egyptian bondage. The narrative progresses to tell the story of the first seven of the 10 plagues that God unleashed on Egypt.
It is one thing to be burdened. It is even worse to be in bondage. Over the past 25 years, I have been in bondage with my health. When I read this portion, I immediately thought to myself, how my life changed once I made a decision to take action, to appear, to make my quality of life better. For those who don’t know me, my weight had ballooned, I had a stroke at age 49 and was in the hospital, and I was unable to walk around my own house without having to sit down and rest. If that’s not bondage, I don’t know what is.
In my own bondage, I struggled with a way to liberate myself from myself. I had to find a way to reverse the situation, to find the strength to be released from the “shackles” of my bondage.
I made a decision, I took action, and I got help. I had bariatric surgery to stop me from myself. I still had the weight bondage but with help and support from the doctors, my family, and my sisterhood sisters, I was able to be released from the bondage of my weight. Without support and counsel from everyone, the surgery would have been a failure and I would still be dealing with my “shackles of bondage.” Today after many months of support and counseling I am free of my own obesity and closer every day to my goal weight. I never thought I would ever be able to say that before. I am also working on getting physically fit. I couldn’t do it myself, so I have a personal trainer and I am running/walking more than two miles, five days a week.
WRJ is the support and counseling for our sisterhoods, WRJ is there to help our sisterhoods grow, WRJ is there for our local sisterhoods to lean on when they feel they get stifled and stagnant. I hope many of you are planning to join us in Cincinnati at the WRJ Fried Leadership Conference. What better way to learn how to develop yourself or others in your sisterhood, to learn from others, and to learn how to get it done without reinventing the wheel.
As we enter our Centennial year, we remember those that came before us that have given us the path we now follow. We as WRJ members have a special place in our hearts for our local sisterhoods because they have brought us closer to each other, our sisters, closer to our Jewish communities, closer to Adonai.
Without WRJ and her members, our sisterhoods will not grow. I know the love and support I got from my sisterhood, my District, and all of WRJ, has helped me to escape the bondage of my weight, which has enabled me to gain the confidence to go on with my life. If we keep WRJ vibrant, other women will benefit from this love and support in the future.
Ellen Petracco is WRJ Southeast District Vice President, a WRJ Board Member and a member of Temple B’nai Israel in Clearwater, FL.