Tag Archives: Isaac

#MeToo in the New Year

11 Sep

(Delivered at Congregation Gan Eden 9/11/18)

At a Hollywood awards show a few months ago the host, comedian John Mulaney, made the following observation: “Last year, everyone who is famous died. This year, everyone who is famous wishes they were dead.” The quip drew nervous laughter because of the many powerful and famous men who had recently been publicly confronted with credible allegations of sexual harassment. 

Indeed, our world has changed since the intrepid investigative reporting of The New Yorker and The New York Times nearly a year ago exposed the sexual harassment committed over many years against many women by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. Soon, there was an avalanche of revelations of other male abusers. The outrage in society towards these men crescendoed into #MeToo and #Timesup! and our world has forever changed. 

Egregious abuse was happening in public view for years, yet many of us didn’t see it. Or we chose not to see it. Or we saw it and dismissed it as “boys being boys.” In many cases it was an “open secret” that men like Harvey Weinstein used their power inappropriately. Back in 2013 actor Seth MacFarlane announced the 5 Oscar nominees for Best Supporting Actress and quipped: “Congratulations. You five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.” Those present politely laughed. It took another four years for us to realize it was no laughing matter. More than fifty women have leveled accusations against Weinstein in the published accounts. Many lived in fear that Weinstein would ruin their careers if they said anything. Some did say something and indeed experienced retaliation and crippling of their aspirations in Hollywood.

We have learned a lot in the past year from many women, as well as a number of men, who have lived in fear of sexual predators who held power over them not only because of the action itself, but because society looked the other way. Then, all of a sudden, society’s eyes were opened. The breaking of the Weinstein story opened the floodgates for the exposure of sexual harassment as an epidemic touching virtually every industry. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, commenting on the ravages of the Vietnam War said , “Some are guilty, but all are responsible.” I think this teaching applies to all of us who allowed the pervasiveness of abuse in our society for decades.  

Fortunately, thanks to the brave victims who have come forward to tell their stories, a loud and determined consensus emerged that we could no longer tolerate the status quo. Time’s up for sexual harassment. This consensus has enabled more victims to tell their stories.

Since the #MeToo movement, I’ve been thinking a lot about violence that takes place in plain sight. Therefore, I am struck when I confront today’s Torah reading, the Akeidah, the Binding of Isaac, to find a story about violence and abuse of power that takes place out in the open—in plain sight. 

If the story happened today, I can imagine a newspaper headline: “Abraham assaults son in act of ritual violence.” Another headline might scream, “Abraham blames God for ordering sacrifice.” What a scandal this would be! We glean from the story the traumatic effect on the main characters. For instance, Isaac and Abraham are never in each other’s presence again, and God and Abraham never speak to each other again.

Often overlooked, though, are two additional characters in the story. Two nameless servants accompany Abraham and Isaac. They are referred to in Hebrew as n’arav, Abraham’s youths, commonly translated as ‘lads.’  They are told to stay behind as Abraham and Isaac ascend Mt. Moriah. The lads do not see the actual binding, we can presume, but we can ask, ‘What were they thinking at that time?’ When Abraham comes down the mountain alone and returns to the lads, we do not hear them asking, “Where’s Isaac?” They silently go on their way. They knew something was wrong but they seemingly said nothing. On one level, who can blame them? Abraham was their boss. Who were they to say anything? On the other hand, they were the only witnesses. They had an obligation to share. 

Rabbi Sharon Brous wrote at the dawn of the #MeToo movement, “It’s time we tell the stories that weren’t recorded. The stories we were too scared to share, those that weren’t deemed important enough to be remembered. It’s about reading between the lines, and listening.” 

The central mitzvah of Rosh HaShanah is lishmoa kol shofar, to listen to the sound of the shofar. The shofar is our alarm. It is meant to wake us up to be more attentive to the world around us. The sounds of the shofar should goad us to listen, really listen, to those who are in distress and to take action as individuals and as a society to make sure such abuse is not tolerated.  

Until the #MeToo movement, too many of us were like the silent lads who should have known bad stuff had to be going on, but we chose to remain silent or to look the other way. That said, I would like to offer an alternative understanding of the two lads. If we read between the lines in the Binding of Isaac story, we find another hidden story. It’s that the anonymous servants did speak up. Consider how we know the events of the Akeidah. The servants bore witness to it. It was they who wrote it down to make sure future generations would not forget. Perhaps it was precisely for our #MeToo moment of public awakening and reckoning that they told their story. 

In this new year, we must continue to create safe spaces for the vulnerable in our midst who feel great pain. We must listen to their stories. We must bear witness. We must not be indifferent. When we open our hearts to those in pain and work to create a safe society for all, we bring hesed, loving-kindness, into the world. Olam hesed yibaneh. We must build a world of love. 

Amen. 

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Roadmap to Reconciliation

2 Oct

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Dr. Erica Brown, a Jewish scholar and author, wrote a book called Happier Endings. Similar to a story I shared yesterday, she writes that a rabbi she knows shared with her the story of a dying man who was losing capacity to speak. He had an estranged son who hadn’t finished college. The father had disapproved of his son’s professional ambitions and lack of them. In his criticism of his son, the son pulled away. Now the father was dying and his wife went to the rabbi to express her pain over the estrangement between her husband and son.

What do you think the rabbi should do?

Today we reread Binding of Issac. It’s a story we think we know so well. Yet, by looking for some tiny clues, particularly from the aftermath of the story —we’re going to come up with what rabbi should do and then learn what he actually did do.

In our culture, we are used to Hollywood endings. The heroes overcome their challenge and ride off into the sunset. We know know that in the end Abraham does not kill Isaac on Mt. Moriah. The story, though, does not have a Hollywood ending. Have you ever noticed that Abraham and Isaac do not walk off together? Have you ever noticed that they never speak to each other again? After this episode, the very next piece of information we learn about the house of Abraham is that Sarah dies, presumably from shock over the news from Mt. Moriah.

There are tragic consequences to the Akeidah. More than a paradigm of faith, the Akeidah is the ultimate recipe for how to screw up a family. Within this complex story, though, or at least in its aftermath, we find a layer of hope and redemption. Who is the hero of the redemption of this family? Without a doubt, it is Isaac. This may come as a surprise. Because of his submission in the binding episode, we tend to regard Isaac as passive. A fresh reading of the text yields a new perspective of Isaac. The secret to understanding Isaac’s greatness lies in a map.

We know from the end of the Binding of Isaac narrative that Abraham travels to Beersheva, a distance of more than forty miles. This is curious because we are told in the next chapter that Sarah dies and is buried in Hevron, only 20 miles from Jerusalem. This suggests that Abraham knowingly bypassed Hevron on his way to Beersheva. He knew Sarah was there and would probably kill him if she heard about the Akeidah. We suspect word does reach her soon enough, and indeed she dies from the shock. Abraham retraces his steps and walks 20 miles back to Hevron to bury Sarah.

Meanwhile, Isaac is missing in action. He does not accompany his father to Beersheva and is not present at his mother’s funeral in Hevron. This is odd because we’re told later how sad Isaac was over the death of his mother and that he does not overcome his grief until he marries Rebecca. So where is Isaac? In the lead-up to Isaac’s marriage to Rebecca, we are finally told his location, Beer Lahai Ro’i (Gen 24: 62). This is an oasis deep in the Negev desert, perhaps another 40 miles from Beersheva. After the Akeidah, Isaac ran as far away as he could from his father and the life he knew. Except, there are two people in Beer Lahai Ro’i whom Isaac knows and knows well: Hagar, Abraham’s second wife, and Ishmael, Isaac’s half-brother. We read about their banishment from the house of Abraham on the first day of Rosh HaShanah. When we learn from the Torah that Be’er Lahai Ro’i becomes Isaac’s home, bells should go off in our minds that he went to live near Hagar and Ishmael.

Isaac probably heard stories from his father over the dinner table about how evil Hagar and Ishmael were, but after the Akeidah, Isaac sees the world differently. Isaac now understands what it’s like to be abandoned. Hagar and Ishmael are the only two people on earth who would understand the trauma he experienced with his father. Moreover, he understands what they went through when they were banished into the desert.

We have no record of any conversations in Beer Lahai Ro’i. We only know that when Abraham dies, Isaac and Ishmael bury their father together at the Cave of Machpelah. This often overlooked scene is one of the most powerful in the Bible: Isaac and Ishmael, sons of Abraham and fathers of two separate nations, stand side by side in brotherhood at their father’s grave.

Think about all that transpired beforehand. The family of Abraham had collapsed. Hagar and Ishmael had been banished, and Isaac had nearly been killed on the altar. Abraham feels he will never be forgiven and cannot face Sarah ever again. Sarah, to the extent she was able to process the events before her death, probably felt betrayed and abandoned. Five people, five lives, five hearts wracked by pain.

I believe that Isaac earned his greatness as a patriarch by doing the quiet work behind the scenes to enable this reconciliation to occur. When Isaac emerges from the trauma on Mt. Moriah, he could have taken different routes. A more outward-driven personality might have seized the moment for PR. He could have broadcast his victimhood to the world. Had he been alive today he could have made millions off of a book deal or reality TV show. That is not Isaac’s approach. Rabbi Sharon Brous calls the aftermath of the Akeidah Isaac’s “birth moment of empathy.”

Isaac is not passive, but he’s also not a publicity hound. He actively works behind the scenes to change the picture. He broke with the script that we find in too many families. Instead of living with hurt and resentment, Isaac directs his pain towards a path of renewal. He taps into his pain to seek out an opportunity for reconciliation. Earlier, the pain was so raw he couldn’t even bear to meet his father at his own mother’s funeral. We might have forgiven Isaac if he had gone to live out his years as a hermit in a cave all by himself. Isaac understands, though, the need to connect. He may feel abandoned by his father, but he is not resigned to a life of abandonment.Through Isaac’s insight and courageous initiative, the sons of Abraham reconciled.
Isaac’s example provides an important guide for us today. We, like Isaac, feel a need to connect with others. Yet, like Isaac, we also feel the weight of baggage in our families. Many of us bear the weight of family narratives of the past. Some of us might broadcast how much we were slighted by someone else because we feel that victimhood brings us sympathy. In truth, we are only hurting ourselves by cultivating pain and resentment. There is a different path.

Healing takes place through quiet acts of kindness and decency. Our natural reflex from infancy is to think only of ourselves. However, when we learn how to turn towards others, we open ourselves to healing and wholeness that will enrich our lives.

Returning to the story of the rabbi and the estranged father and son, the mother desperately longed for her son and the father to reconcile before he died. She knew that the key would be for the father to apologize to the son so that he could go on with his life without such a heavy burden. She couldn’t bring herself to broach the topic with her husband, so she turned to the rabbi.

The rabbi goes in to speak to the father. He said, “I know you can’t speak much, but I need to know if you can say two words, ‘I’m sorry.’” The father said yes. Then the rabbi said, “I need you to say three more words: ‘I love you.’ Can you do that? That’s the only thing you need to do before you leave this world.” The father agreed. The rabbi called the son. He said he couldn’t believe his father wanted to speak to him, but the rabbi insisted that he really did. The son went ahead but wanted his mother to come with him. The mother pushed him into the bedroom alone. Forty-five minutes later the son came out, his face awash in tears. He said, “Dad said sorry, and Dad loves me.” The rabbi facilitated that moment because this family was stuck and couldn’t get there on their own. The mother is also a hero for recognizing the importance of reconciliation and seeking help to realize it. This moment was transformational for every member of that family, allowing the father to go in peace, allowing the mother to live in peace and allowing the son to not live with the burden of his father’s judgement.

Both father and son in this story could have protected their pride and avoided each other. Had that continued, they would have carried their pain and estrangement into eternity. Instead, they found a way to open their hearts to bring about healing and closure. This is the type of work we all should do now. Let’s not wait for death bed reconciliations. Instead, let us follow a roadmap to healing. Let this be the year we open our hearts to heal ourselves, our families and our world.

Prayer As a Vehicle for Change

13 Nov

 

Year after year around Thanksgiving time, Hollywood turns up the heat.  As we enter the winter holiday season, our country is bombarded by movies that are meant to be blockbusters. I am always amazed at the extent to which these blockbuster movies are adventures or fantasies, movies that force us to take a leap of faith beyond reality. The most successful films become franchises that repeat over and over again.  Right now, pop culture is captivated by 007, the 24th film in the James Bond franchise.  Next month, after much hoopla, the seventh Star Wars film will hit the silver screen

Why do blockbuster fantasy movies always take the country by storm? Certainly the popularity of familiar storylines and identity with characters help. Special effects also go a long way towards making them entertaining spectacles. But the key reason people turn to film or any dramatic media, is the escape it offers from the harsh realities of our world. What could be more comforting than the opening lines of the signature song of Disney’s classic, Pinocchio: “When you wish upon a star/makes no difference who you are/anything your heart desires/will come to you.” If only the world were so simple.  Whether in print or on the screen, we turn to fantasy as an escape from the confusing world in which we live, a world fraught with evil and destruction.

Wouldn’t it be nice if somehow by magic we could bring back to life those who died in terrorist attacks in Israel in recent weeks? Imagine if we could use the Force to summon Israel’s enemies to a bargaining table to finalize peace in the region. Alas, we are not able to use the Force or summon any kind of magical powers to rid the world of its problems. Our world demands more of us.

 

At first glance, today’s Torah reading seems to confirm the “When you wish upon a star” thinking that we find in many films. The essential point of conflict in the story of Jacob and Esau is who will get their father’s blessing. When Jacob, disguised as Esau, stands before Isaac, he receives Isaac’s innermost blessing:

כח וְיִֽתֶּן־לְךָ הָֽאֱלֹהִים מִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְרֹב דָּגָן וְתִירֽשׁ:

May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, abundance of new grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow to you; Be master over your brothers, and let your mother’s sons bow to you. Cursed be they who curse you, blessed be they who bless you.” (27:28-29) One might think that this blessing is a kind of hocus pocus incantation, like one would read in J.R.R. Tolkein or J.K. Rowling, two authors whose works also were adapted into blockbuster film serials. In fact, it is possible that Esau also believes that the blessing has a magical quality when he learns what happened and lets out a loud and bitter cry. Esau’s interest in the blessing was its material benefit. In the end, Esau receives from Isaac a very similar blessing of his own promising him the fat of  the earth and the dew of heaven above.

Blessings are not magic, however. Even in their most materialistic forms, the purpose of blessings is to acknowledge the ultimate power of God in the world. Elsewhere, the Torah explicitly prohibits practices of magic and divination that seek to undermine God’s authority over all creation. Isaac is more sophisticated than we often give him credit for in recognizing the distinction between a blessing and a magical incantation. This is most evident at the end of the parasha when Isaac blesses Jacob as he is about to flee from Esau’s wrath.

Isaac says: May El Shaddai bless you, make you fertile and numerous, so that you become an assembly of peoples. May He grant the blessing of Abraham to you and your offspring, that you may possess the land where you are sojourning, which God assigned to Abraham.” (28:3-4)

 

Nechama Leibowitz, one of the great Torah scholars of the 20th century, contrasts the blessing originally intended for Esau and the one Jacob received in his own right. On the one hand, Esau was promised abundance, fatness, power and dominion-material blessings. Jacob, however, is charged with the Abrahamic mission, which is essentially spiritual. It demands responsibility on the part of Jacob in addition to the promise it offers him.

In a twist on Shakespeare, Abraham Joshua Heschel writes: “To be or not to be is not the question. The vital question is: how to be or not to be.” Heschel further writes: “Man in prayer does not seek to impose his will upon God; he seeks to impose God’s will and mercy upon himself. Prayer is necessary to make us aware of our failures, backsliding, transgressions, sins.”

 

Jacob in his youth is far from perfect, and the Bible does not try to hide his faults. However, he has a greater sense of the ultimate purpose of prayer. By the end of Parashat Toledot, Isaac realizes that prayer is not merely a shopping list one sends to God, but a means to bring Godliness into the world and that the person to do that is Jacob. More than the other patriarchs, Jacob shows the greatest amount of growth. He makes mistakes and pays dearly for them. Ultimately, though, it is Jacob who recognizes the power of prayer to transform himself, as we shall see in the coming weeks.

In many fantasies, there are forces of good and forces of evil. The characters on either side of the divide lack the ability to change. The struggle between the two, therefore, is not a struggle over the hearts and minds of humanity. Rather, it is a pure power struggle devoid of moral implications. It is a struggle over the outside world and material objects. The victor is the one who comes up with the stronger magic tricks.

 

The Jewish understanding, on the other hand, is that we all have free will to choose between good and evil. Our world is not decided by the

wave of a magic wand but by how we treat one another. When we pray, we have the potential to find the strength within ourselves to make ourselves and the world better.

May the implicit lesson of Parashat Toledot and the readings of the coming weeks inspire us to approach prayer as a vehicle to improving ourselves and the world around us. Amen.

 

 

Remembering Rabin 20 years later

30 Oct

 

 

 

On Yom Kippur, I reflected on my experience in Israel 20 years ago when the country went through the trauma of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. While Rabin’s yahrzeit already passed several days ago, this week marks the secular anniversary on November 4. Furthermore, President Bill Clinton in his eulogy of Rabin cited the very Torah portion that we read today, Parashat Vayera. President Clinton said:

This week, Jews all around the world are studying the Torah portion in which God tests the faith of Abraham, patriarch of the Jews and the Arabs. He commands Abraham to sacrifice Yitzhak. “Take your son, the one you love, Yitzhak.” As we all know, as Abraham, in loyalty to God, was about to kill his son, God spared Yitzhak.

Now God tests our faith even more terribly, for he has taken our Yitzhak. But Israel’s covenant with God for freedom, for tolerance, for security, for peace — that covenant must hold. That covenant was Prime Minister Rabin’s life’s work. Now we must make it his lasting legacy. His spirit must live on in us.

The Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for mourning, never speaks of death, but often speaks of peace. In its closing words, may our hearts find a measure of comfort and our souls, the eternal touch of hope.

“Oseh shalom bimromav, hu ya’ase shalom aleinu, ve-al kol Israel, ve-imru, amen.”

Shalom, haver.

On this twentieth anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, official memorials are taking place, including one tomorrow in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv at which Bill Clinton will be present. Yet, it seems that reflections on the Rabin assassination is rather subdued in the Jewish public square. Yehudah Kurtzer of the Hartman Institute  suggests in an op-ed three reasons for the muted commemorations:

  1. If Rabin’s assassination was a cautionary tale on the dangers of Jewish fundamentalism, its message has not been sufficiently heeded, particularly in the last year in which Jews have carried out horrific acts of violence.
  2. Rabin’s political legacy is complex. We will never know what would have happened if he had lived. Given where we are now, it seems Pollyannaish that he would have completed a peace deal and brought about the elusive two-state solution.
  3. The biggest obstacle to Rabin’s memory is that many Jews very reasonably have little appetite right now for the self-flagellation involved with a commemoration of Rabin. As Israel’s citizens are under attack, many of the country’s supporters feel that Israel’s primary enemies are from without and not from within. They argue that empathy with a society under attack dictates solidarity with the people rather than the bitter surfacing of a memory that signaled that society’s failure. If remembering Rabin is about signaling that we can be our own worst enemies, that message is hard for us to hear today. Rabin’s legacy, in other words, is hijacked both by the complicated political reality he left behind, and by the dominant lesson of his death as a warning about Jew-on-Jew violence. Rabin’s memory may be lost because it arises at an inconvenient time, or because it is thought to be a failure.

 

Just as Bill Clinton framed Rabin’s legacy 20 years ago through the lenses of  Parashat Vayera, we can do the same. The portion continues the story of Abraham and the dramatic accounts of how the father of our nation welcomed angels into his tent, argued with God over the justice of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, the birth of Isaac in his and Sarah’s old age, the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael and the binding of Isaac. We see Abraham as a great hero, yet one with human flaws. He and the other patriarchs and matriarchs are at once larger than life and very approachable. For centuries, people have attempted to get inside the minds of our ancestors and speculate on the details of their experiences and what they must have thought at the time. The art of Midrash is the attempt to have a conversation with the Biblical narrative and to imagine ourselves in the situations described.

Yehuda Amichai, the great Israeli poet who died in 2000, completed his last collection of poetry shortly before he died in a book titled “Open Closed Open.” Though he identified as a secular Israeli, much of his poetry, particularly in this volume, discusses Biblical figures and religious issues. Abraham and the story of the Binding of Isaac appear multiple times. The following poem is an example of the poet’s attempt to enter the minds of our ancestors and imagine them reflecting with nostalgia on the traumatic events of the Akeidah.

Taken from “Open Closed Open” by Yehuda Amichai

Page 119

Every year our father Abraham takes his sons to Mount Moriah, the same way that I take my children to the Negev hills where my war took place.

Abraham walks with his sons: this is where I left the servants, that’s where I tied the ass to the tree at the foot of the hill, and here, right at this spot, you asked me, Isaac my son: Here is the fire and the wood but where is the lamb for the sacrifice? A little further up you asked me again.

When they reached the top of the mountain they rested awhile and ate

And drank, and he showed them the thicket where the ram was caught by its horns.

And when Abraham died, Isaac took his sons to the same spot.

“Here I lifted up the wood and that’s where I stopped for breath, this is where I asked my father and he replied, God will provide the lamb for the sacrifice, and that’s where I knew that it was me.”

And when Isaac became blind his sons brought him to that same Mount Moriah and described to him in words

All those things that he may already have forgotten.

 

In this poem, Abraham behaves like we might behave visiting a historic site while on vacation, particularly while visiting places of battle. The poet likens Abraham to generations of Israelis who would often visit battle sites with a sense of nostalgia. We also see the contrast between generations. Abraham has his set of memories when he revisits the site with Isaac. But when Isaac takes his sons there, he remembers things differently. He acknowledges that while Abraham did not fully answer his question about where was the sacrifice, he understood that he was the intended sacrifice. Then, Isaac revisits the site years later when he is blind, perhaps a symbol of blocking out a memory that was too painful for him.

Amichai’s interpretation of the Akeidah is told from different perspectives. Similarly, this week we approach the memory of Yitzhak Rabin from different perspectives: what was, what is and what might have been. I believe many of us hold all three of these thoughts and memories of Rabin simultaneously. Abraham and Isaac were not perfect, and neither was Rabin.

On this 20th anniversary of Rabin’s assassination, I yearn for religious and political leaders who, like Rabin, are willing to take risks for positive change and who continue to envision a better future with both sincerity and pragmatism. This is how I choose to remember Rabin twenty years later.

To conclude, the Psalmist says (122:6):

 

ו   שַׁאֲלוּ שְׁלוֹם יְרוּשָׁלָם יִשְׁלָיוּ אֹהֲבָיִךְ: ז   … ח   לְמַעַן־אַחַי וְרֵעָי אֲדַבְּרָה־נָּא שָׁלוֹם בָּךְ: ט   לְמַעַן בֵּית־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ אֲבַקְשָׁה טוֹב לָךְ:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem; they who love the Lord shall prosper…For the sake of my brothers and sisters, I will now say Peace be within you. For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your goodness.

Amen.

 

#TieBlog #Vayera #TheScream

29 Oct
Edvard Munch's "The Scream" has multiple connections to Parashat Vayera.

Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” has multiple connections to Parashat Vayera.

When I found a tie with Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” it was clear to me that it would be perfect for Parashat Vayera. The question is what specific connection or “tie-in” it has. The next question is what kind of a scream is represented? Is it a scream of terror or a scream of joy? If the latter, perhaps it’s the aged Sarah expressing her shock that she is going to give birth to a son. On the terror side there are multiple options. It could be Abraham hearing about God’s planned destruction of Sodom and Amorah and his righteous indignation that the just might perish with the wicked. It could be the wife of Lot gazing upon Sodom and Amorah as they burn from fire and brimstone. She turns into a pillar of salt from the shock. Or perhaps it’s Sarah upon learning of the near sacrifice of her son Isaac (Sarah dies at the beginning of the next portion). It could be all of these things, making this one loud, action-packed Torah portion.

#TieBlog #Toledot 2014

21 Nov
Often Parashat Toldot corresponds with Thanksgiving. The turkeys on this week's tie represent the prominent role of food in the drama of Jacob and Esau.

Often Parashat Toldot corresponds with Thanksgiving. The turkeys on this week’s tie represent the prominent role of food in the drama of Jacob and Esau.

 

Food and sustenance play a prominent role in Parashat Toledot. Jacob tricks Esau out of his birthright for a bowl of stew. He later deceives his blind father by wearing hairy skins to appear like his brother as if he had just returned from a hunt. His mother Rebecca prepares the purported game for Jacob to present to Isaac and receive in return his innermost blessing intended for the first born. In between these two narratives centered around food, we learn that Isaac reclaims the wells that his father had dug in Canaan. The family legacy cannot continue without sustenance from water, nor can it continue without nourishment from food. Often Parashat Toldot corresponds with Thanksgiving. This year, we read Toledot a few days before Thanksgiving. The turkeys on this week’s tie represent the prominent role of food in the drama of Jacob and Esau.

#BlessingAsAgentForChange

1 Nov

Isaac Blessing JacobTomorrow in Shabbat services I will facilitate a discussion on giving blessings, based on the drama surrounding Isaac blessing his sons. Consider the sources in this study sheet. Think of a time when you felt “blessed” by someone else through praise, words of encouragement or the like. In what way(s) were you transformed by the blessing? Let’s begin the discussion now! You can Tweet responses at #blessingAsAgentForChange. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Bernstein