Trials and tribulations are the epicenter of ourportion this week, Vayetzei. All of us know the rudiments: Jacob leaving home, the dream of the ladder, the rock on the well, meeting Rachel, substituting Leah at their wedding, and so on. My interest is directed to Isaac, who never left “the land” by virtue of his fear of the prophecy of exile given to Abraham and, most of all, the tribulations of Jacob.
Our commentators express wonderment about how Jacob makes it through this; he looses Rachel and later “thinks” he lost his favorite son, Joseph. We all have troubles—what are we to do?
When we contemplate the darkness that often seems to engulf us, we wonder what to do. Typically, we feel helpless when thinking of war and economic chaos. But it is the practice of gema’ch---of compassion---that leads to redemption.
We are at a precarious time as Jews in the Diaspora as we contemplate in angst what to do vis-a-vis the ongoing conflict with our own neighbors as well as those surrounding “the land” of Israel. How can we show compassion for others who are trying to run us into the sea?
The lesson we lean from Jacob is that we cannot change those who want to bring harm to us. Moreover, he discovers, not everyone is against him. We need to be reminded that when dealing with terrorists like Hamas that are intransigent, there is little we can do. What we need to do is to continue to curry favor with those that can and will be our allies.
Last night’s Nyack Interfaith Thanksgiving Service was heartwarming and moving. Once again it was proved we can come together as a community with our Christian and Muslim friends. As we take time this week to give thanks, I only reiterate that we need to have compassion for others, all-the-while remembering that everything is not simply black and white.
There is a beautiful poem from Naomi Levy that I would like to close with to help remind us what we are grateful for:
For the laughter of the children,
For my own life breath,
For the abundance of food on this table,
For the ones who prepared this sumptuous feast,
For the roof over our heads,
The clothes on our backs,
For our health,
And our wealth of blessings,
For this opportunity to celebrate with family and friends,
For the freedom to pray these words
In any language,
In any faith,
In this great country,
Whose landscape is as vast and beautiful as her inhabitants.
Thank You, God, for giving us all these. Amen.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Thanksgiving!
Rabbi Jeffrey Abraham