Thanksgiving – 2018 Leah’s Blog
It’s not for nothing that Israel is called Israel.
Even going way back to the beginning of how this nation was formed at its root source, the Torah details for us the way things may have looked different from different angles as the fabric of the common denominator had ours and other nations destinies intertwined, but not our fates. These portions are threaded with trickery; we read them and realize an important fact- a rebranding cannot turn a lie into a truth, but it can bring us to a place that we can reveal even hidden things about ourselves, even in the tumultuous happenings of todays events. Interestingly Israel’s trials are juxtaposed elsewhere in the world. Questions about nationality and identity come into play for every person on earth. Israel is a template.
At the start Yaakov holds unto Esau’s heel for a fighting chance. He is a man of the tent while his brother is a man of the field. His tikkun as a result of family dynamics is total immersion into the gentile world in exile. He arrives almost as a fugitive but in a short range of time he toils and reaps well. Hashem has been with him. Nostalgia though pulls at him as his cup overflows and he longs to return to the cornerstone of the Promise Hashem gave to Abraham and Isaac. There is drama, a chase, culminating at the hour of dawn when he prevails. He becomes who he really is and his name is changed. The dynasty of Israel morphs into something else, a new identity.
Soon we will be reading in the coming portions about future trials the family of Israel faces as they come to settle the Land. As his children grow in the Land, we can clearly see the impact it has made on them. In Shechem, the very place their forefathers came to make a Land covenant, their sister Dina is taken violently and there will be no mercy. Their response is that of an iron fist. It is ruthless. This is not exile. We do not make deals with terrorists. There will be no trickery here- Chazal detail Yaakov’s horror and abhorrence at what they did, avenging the horrific atrocity. Yaakov explicitly states that he is afraid their provocation – not his- will cause the locals to slaughter him and the entire family. A new breed of Israelites made Israel REAL though, even to the stunned face of their father. Only later, as Yisrael blesses his children before he passes away does he say- “And I gave you one Shechem which I took with my sword and my bow”. (ואני נתתי לך שכם אחד על אחיך אשר לקחתי מיד האמורי בחרבי ובקשתי) – giving the portion of the place that gave him great heartache, to Yosef. Before this chapter in history ended and the time in Egypt will fall into play, he wants to make it clear that there is an element of military spirit they should take account of for when they go back to it, as we see this happens all through the Book of Judges.
As a nation we have also had our share of being the fugitive and also being the comfortable in wherever we’ve sojourned and come to form communities in the diaspora. A new idea suddenly came into focus as nations were being formed and nations being freed from Imperial rule and colonization largely by European countries around the globe in the late 1800’s. A new interpretation of identity brought with it many hopes for the young Jewish pioneers that came to settle Israel, and the hopes were placed into the next generation. The “Tzabars” (new Israelis) that came to dry out the swamps and breathe the air of Eretz Yisrael, that walked barefoot, and sang songs in Hebrew, had their own way and liberty to bear arms as a means of defense would turn them into a “new man”. This hope became a reality and in many cases human skeletons fresh off relief boats after the holocaust took on a new form; they became fighters. All through the years there was shadow and light in our history, but at that critical time the light began to shine even brighter. Jews were able to fight back.
Today we are faced with many challenges as we morph into our true identity, a national religious one based on Torah ideals while innovation in many fields have us inspired and have the world seeking a relationship with us. We are proud of our nationalism and there is only one country on earth can be that- in Israel.
We are being clearly tested about how as a nation we need to respond to the trickery, to the terror and confusion. Old methods from old ways of thinking are being unshackled and the nation here in Israel is demanding a proper response, a just and righteous way of reaching EMET (truth) through the proper military spirit as demonstrated by the sons of Yaakov when challenged. Give truth to Yaakov! Shabbat Shalom! Leah Goldsmith