Weekly Message

November 9, 2018
1 Kislev 5779

Parashat Tolodot
Genesis 25:19 — 28:9

Dear Friends,

It is an interesting concept to have descendants.  Do they need to be by blood, or can they be our descendants because we pass on what we value what matters to us as individuals?

Kristallnacht is November 9th -- the night of the broken glass.  What are we to remember, we the generations that followed that time 80 years ago?  It has almost passed out of memory.

Every year the week before Kristallnacht, my mother would go to Hebrew School and tell her story -- an older woman with a German accent telling a story that occurred when she was 18.  How can we bridge that gap of age and experience?  How do we pass on the feelings of another time and place when life was lived at a different pace?  It was a time and place where a father's phone call had impact because calling was expensive and not done with ease.

How do we communicate across the generations?  How can those distant stories still resonate carrying an impact that is not always readily apparent?  After all, times are different.

But as in our Torah portion, we are reminded that people have not changed.  Parents still favor one child over another, assigning qualities to the child that are more about the parent than the child.  Rebecca favors Jacob who, at least in her eyes, is more of a homebody, while Isaac admires Esau, who is a hunter combative in a way that Isaac never is. Rebecca sees Jacob as embodying her husband’s gentle qualities (which is what she wants to see), while Isaac sees Esau’s strength, not his attention deficit disorders — to Isaac, Esau is strong like his beloved wife. By seeing their children through the lens of the beloved spouse, they don’t see the children at all.

The impact of these stories is deep and powerful when we push away that which marks it as a time different from our own and leave behind human behavior.  Sometimes that behavior reveals the best, sometimes the worst, and sometimes simply reveals that we human beings are flawed and, hard as we try, we do not always get it right. To see what the past has to teach us, we need to be able to see what binds us together as human beings.

Shavua Tov — wishing you a good week,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn