Toldot - weekly Torah portion

Two beginnings, Esau and Jacob. Two opportunities that when met brought about a profound change. A change that happened at a very particular point in time. Esau returns “from the field and he was famished”. Jacob, is a different kind of a guy, he was “a peaceful man, living in tents”, and was busy preparing some sort of food. Quite hungry after a hard days’ work Esau demands of his brother, “let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” This could have all ended very simply. Jacob could have poured some of the cooked stew in a bowl, and Esau would have felt content and probably also fall asleep; No drama and no story. However, Jacob is not that kind of peaceful man and he has his own demands from his brother, “First sell me your birthright”, he says, so that he can get that which is the right of the first born son. He sees an opportunity here, a little change in the initial conditions. He will become the one with the birthrights and so will change his destiny. He sees that butterfly and makes sure that this butterfly and makes sure that the wings start clapping.

Click the picture to watch the video of our four new Ordained Rabbis

It is so easy to miss opportunities, it usually happens because we fail to see those minute changes that are necessary to bring us from similarly identical initial conditions to very different outcomes that may be far apart. Esau says that he is famished and wonders, “I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” Maybe he is dead tired but he is certainly not going to die. He and Jacob are still destined to meet as the story continues. He is simply very hungry and very weary, probably after a tough day out in the fields. At that point in time, a low point in his day, he loses his best judgement and misunderstands the importance of that event onto his life. From his immediate point of view this birthright is inconsequential, but that’s not the case for Jacob.

Not understanding the impact of seemingly small and unimportant events is most likely unavoidable. It is not easy to recognize in real-time what is actually happening around us. This makes it difficult for us to comprehend the actual state of things and causes us to reach wrong conclusions and make bad decisions, some simply unwise, others small or big mistakes. Many of us will look at Esau’s story and assure ourselves that something like that would never happen to us. However, if we search deep and truthfully into ourselves I think we can all admit that at least once or twice in our lives we have failed this way. It is a fact that we miss opportunities, and regardless of the reason for it, it does not mean that it should become a habit. To the contrary, with the understanding that we are going to fail to recognize opportunities we should internalize this fact of life and be open to cease such opportunities, embrace the change and make it work for us.

Yesterday, on Thursday evening, we celebrated the ordination of four rabbis who have completed their studies at the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. It was yet again another big and joyful celebration as we also celebrated the ordination of the 100th rabbi of the Israel Reform Rabbinate Program. The first Israeli rabbi ordained by HUC in Jerusalem began his career at the pulpit at our very own congregation, the “Natan Ya” Congregation of Netanya. Rabbi Motti Rotem recalls, in a booklet published by Maram, the representative body of Reform Rabbis in Israel on this festive occasion, “As of 1969 I began serving at the ‘Natan Ya’ Congregation as prayer leader during Erev Shabbat services and during the Holy Days… In fact I not only lead prayers but also delivered sermons on every such occasion… I fondly remember the members of the congregation in Netanya who were all heartedly devoted to the congregation and the movement, and have expressed their appreciation and thanks to my services at every opportunity and in every way possible.”

Yesterday’s morning did fair as well as the evening though. Again an attempt was made to prevent us from brining into the Kotel our own Torah scrolls, again violence was practiced against our rabbis and worshipers, and the scenes that our Prime Minister tries to claim do not exist have surfaced yet again. So if he has not yet understood this, and if the rabbi forced on the Kotel has not yet comprehended the facts, we will say this again as loud and as clear as possible – we are here to stay; we are here and they are going to get used to seeing us there; we are here and we are going to bring the change so that values that unite and represent the majority of Israelis, are going to be the ones that will get over the darkness, the ignorance, the hate and the jealousy. Anyone can understand why these opponents of ours are so worried – if we are able to do what we do when the government does not pour buckets upon buckets of funds upon us then what shall happen when we get what we are lawfully due?!

Yesterday evening brought much satisfaction, naches. We heard our newly ordained rabbis speak wisely, tastefully, peacefully and forcefully. They were then joined by newly ordained rabbis from Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and New York. Their travel was made possible by grants from the Israeli government – do not despair from the darkness of the morning as the evening glowed with bright colors.

Shabbat Shalom and wishes for a Chodesh Tov.

Reuven Marko, 17 November 2017, 29 Heshvan, 5778

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