- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On November 20, 2020
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast HERE.
I have heard it and I predict you have, too. Or, perhaps, it is your story.
“We have lost friends because of Covid, not because of death but because of the way they behave does not meet my standard of protection.”
“We don’t go near them. They aren’t careful enough.”
We are deeply offended that they don’t trust us and then accuse us of irresponsible behavior.”
You are not alone. Too many are lamenting the loss of relationships. Fractured friendships. Angry relatives. Disappointed colleagues. We are in a vulnerable state. While our patience is frayed, our frustration and anger can rise up at any moment.
Let’s name it. We are struggling.
In this week’s Torah portion, the matriarch Rebekah, finally conceived and became pregnant. And yet, the text informs us that these little babies who have not yet even emerged to breathe the breath of life have already begun to struggle. The Hebrew uses an unusual verb, va-yitrotsetsu, which means they crushed, beat, and thrust one another.
The rabbis of the midrash pick up another possible meaning from this specific verb which can connote to move quickly. They imagine in their own anachronistic way that when Rebekah walked past a house of study, Jacob would agitate and struggle to emerge, but when she was near a house of idolatry or other places of ill repute, Esau quickened his movement to push. (Genesis Rabbah 63:6)
This specific reflexive verb, va-yitrotsetsu, also connotes struggling with oneself while one struggles with the other. Neither is left unscathed. They will eventually arrive into the world having laid the foundation for much lying and deceit within this complicated and complex family.
Rebekah suffers as well and she cries out to God:
If so, why do I exist? (Genesis 25:22).
Her response may help us face the struggles we are experiencing for it is an existential question worth considering. She does not blame the infants within her womb. She turns the question on herself. “What is my purpose?” She asks in the depth of her despair. She cannot control the two nations who will soon emerge, but she can control herself. We know in the story that follows that she will try to make sure that the younger, Jacob, receives the blessing instead of the older brother, Esau. It leads to Jacob having to escape with his life from the wrath of his brother.
Our wrath, frustration, and anger have the power to take hold of us. Escalation ensues and the result is the severing of important relationships. Is this why we exist? Surely not.
Let us honor one another even as we disagree or even are offended. We may need to agree to spend time away from one another while Covid rages. Let Covid rage though, not us against each other. One day, hopefully within the coming year, we will encounter one another again with or without masks. Let us allow ourselves to reclaim those friendships, connections, and relationships with a forgiving heart and open spirit. And then, we will be able to exist together.
- Tonight we welcome Professor Joyce Antler during Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. She’ll be discussing Radical Feminism and Jewish Identity. Following services we’ll enjoy another Oneg opportunity to meet others. We can pray together HERE on the Temple Israel website, or HERE on Zoom, or even HERE on TI’s Facebook page. Or, just find it all on the website www.tisrael.org/TogetherWithTI .
- Tonight at 5:00 p.m. our littlest congregants join for Tot Rock Shabbat. Join us on Zoom here
- Torah study engages everyone. We start with a short Shabbat morning service at 9:00 a.m. with Torah reading and then launch into a provocative discussion. To join the conversation interactively, access Zoom HERE. You can also watch HERE on Temple Israel’s website or HERE on TI’s Facebook page.
- Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat takes place at 10:00 a.m. Join us on Zoom here.
- End Shabbat together with Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. HERE on Zoom, or watch along on the website HERE, or on Facebook HERE. Immediately following the service, Rabbinic Intern Andrew Oberstein will lead us in a post-Havdalah meditation session.
- Join Riverway Friendsgiving: Havdalah and Trivia at 7:00 p.m. HERE.