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Vayigash 5782 ~ December 10, 2021

Anton Chekhov once wrote: “You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” One of the most difficult realities for Jacob must have been not only the mistrust or lack of trust that he had in his sons following their pronouncement that Joseph had been mauled by a wild animal, but the realization that the mistrust must have transformed and transferred to himself as well. Afterall, hadn’t Jacob sent Joseph to spy on his brothers to find out what they were truly doing out in the fields? Most assuredly, Jacob had long lost faith in his sons prior to the events where Joseph was placed into a pit and sold into slavery by his brothers. Needless to say, his life must have been anxiety-ridden, but I am quite certain that those psychological issues began at his birth and not at the moment in our story. We simply have to glance into the narrative from when his mother Rebecca was pregnant to realize that Jacob’s life was filled with issues.

From the story of Egypt and Passover, we have learned to realize that Jacob’s realities just might foreshadow the antisemitism that has followed Jacob’s ancestors to this day. We are cognizant of the fact that antisemitism has become an even greater issue in not only America, but around the world today. One example takes place in Toronto where, at one of the University of Toronto campuses, the boycott of Israel (BDS) movement has succeeded in forbidding kosher food to be served on its campus. This is quite a shocking reality, especially in one of the world’s largest and strongest Jewish communities in the world. Needless to say, the Jewish community in Toronto is legally fighting this sanction.

But what we weren’t prepared for was the continuation of the story of Jacob’s sons’ animosity towards one another. A continued hatred based on a difference of beliefs between Jews is quite unsettling.  In Israel, we see these contentious feelings related to everything from prayer for non-Orthodox at or near the Kotel, including the right for women to daven and read from the Torah, to that of what one believes regarding the boundaries and the solution to the Palestinian issue. However, a recent disagreement at one of the Moishe Houses, a Jewish communal house in several cities, is quite disturbing.  In many ways, it is as upsetting as the troubles within Jacob’s sons.  I share with you the link to the story of the incident, written in first hand, by Gabriel Katz, a colleague’s son, as a modern unfortunate reality of Jacob’s sons’ story:  I hope that you will take the time to read this very sad story.

As your rabbi, I signed a statement urging that the Jewish community uphold the free expression of ideas in our institutions. The statement states "one of our roles as Rabbis is to foster inclusive communities that welcome people of varied cultural backgrounds, stations in life, and ideological perspectives. While becoming more inviting of culturally diverse Jews, our institutions often fall short in welcoming Jews with varied viewpoints." The goal is to teach that “The Jewish tradition advances the ideals of civil debate alongside an enduring commitment to pursuing goodness and justice. We honor open but respectful conversation, based on the highest ethical values of our tradition.”

Sun, May 28 2023 8 Sivan 5783