Friday, November 21, 2014

Family Legacies (Looking at - not past - each other) -D'var Torah for Toldot - November 21, 2014

“Two peoples are in your belly, 
two nations shall branch off from each other
[as they emerge] from your womb. 
One people shall prevail over the other; 
the elder shall serve the younger.”
Such was the message Rebekah received directly from God 
as she asked why these twins-to-be
were struggling inside of her with such intensity. 
The message was clear to her: 
The elder, Esau, would serve the younger, Jacob.
Her interpretation set in motion 
all that would transpire afterwards 
as she paved the way for the younger child
to receive the older child's blessing
as Isaac's primary heir. 
So would follow the accusations of deceit
down through the ages of biblical commentary
Or, a strong defense of Rebekah's actions
because of her special insight
into the need for Jacob to be the fulcrum
of the future for the children of Abraham and Isaac. 
Some say that Rebekah did understand correctly
one part of the message,
while failing to grasp the other possible meaning.  
As with ancient oracular proclamations 
that could be taken in more ways than one,
Rebekah may have missed this possible understanding:
The older one the younger one will serve.
So did Rebekah do wrong in setting up Jacob 
as the primary son 
who would succeed Isaac in most every way? 
Perhaps not. 
Perhaps the statement with a dual meaning
Was intended to foretell what would actually happen.
In some ways, 
the younger son would serve the older
in having to leave his home because of his brother's anger, 
in a moment of trepidation before meeting up with him again,
years later
and in two peoples, Israel and Edom,
living in close proximity to each other
whether in calm or in conflict. 
There is here a family legacy
One not of competition 
but of the necessity of mutual recognition.  
In the end, the sons of Isaac and Rebekah had to learn
that even though they might not end up living together,
they couldn't look past each other
pretending that the other did not exist.  
They had to meet each other, eventually, 
at heart of their humanity
in a place where a divine perspective would bring them together
looking into one another's eyes
as if each was seeing the face of God  in the other.
Their legacy bears lessons for the human family throughout the ages.  
Too many times,
In too many places
People look past one another
Seeing those who are different 
those whose background they do not share
as strangers
as the enemy
as objects of scorn
and hatred.
Two men attack people praying in a house of worship.
Young women attack a cab driver with tear gas. 
In the name of security, law enforcement officers or soldiers
think the worst about the people demonstrating in front of them Protesters fail to see the human beings opposite them 
hoping to preserve calm.  
Motives of others are questioned based on rumor
Rather than being understood based on fact.  
Ultimately,  The struggle between these boys
Teaches us not to see others only as we see them
But to see and understand them  
As they see and understand themselves.  
When we reach that goal,
Perhaps our service to one another
Will be for good, for cooperation
And for peace.   

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