Vayera - weekly Torah portion
When se are sought for there are several ways to respond. In the well-known story of the Garden of Eden we read, “Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, ‘Where are you?’”. This happened immediately after Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, “and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.” Listening to the voice of God it is clear that it is not going to help avoiding the Lord and the man provides his answer, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Another such story of hide and seek we find in the case of the prophet Jonah. In his story we are told that after he was ordered to deliver a harsh prophecy to the people of Nineveh, that he decided “to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Not that it helps him much, he too is easily found, dropped into the rough sea and not before long finds himself at the helm of the task he was assigned to.
In this week’s portion of the Torah we read of a different tale, a case where God deliberately tries out Abraham’s core belief in God. “Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, ‘Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am. הִנֵּנִי’” He is called by name and Abraham responds succinctly, ‘Here I am. הִנֵּנִי’. Abraham responds similarly when his son “Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, ‘My father!’ And he said, “Here I am, הִנֵּנִי my son.” As a response Abrajam receives the toughest question from his son, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Surely not a question a father would like to attempt answering under these circumstances as the fate of Isaac is already seemingly known to Abraham. Nevertheless Abraham responds, “Here I am, הִנֵּנִי”. He is ready, he is willing, he knows that the reality is tough and complex and he may hope that there is going to be a perfectly plausible solution to this totally incomprehensible Godly demand. In that context we can understand his response to Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
To say “here I am”, to utter the words “הִנֵּנִי”, demands a lot of us. It is not only being there but also requires us to do something about this stand. Abraham feels ready to be doing even taking significant risks that come with this territory. He does not hide and he does not flee. He faces the tough challenge and makes tough choices. We are going to have some kind of different tough choices this coming Tuesday on elections day in Israel where we are going to elect new mayors and new city councils throughout the country. These elections happen typically only once every five years. These are not elections on such critical issues like security, taxes or international relationships. Yet these are important elections. These are elections the results of which are going to impact our daily lives. They determine how our schools will look like, the availability and accessibility to parks and places of recreation, the way resources are divided between communities within the community. Should we be hiding in the tree of the garden like Adam and Eve, or may be find that ship that is sailing to Tarshish? Should we refrain from making a decision or part taking in that process?
When we speak about a Jewish and Democratic state we must realize the very life of democracy by participating in the elections. We must go out of our dwellings and hit the ballots, go and vote. It is the noble thing to do regardless if this is a day off or not. It gives us the unique, almost rare opportunity to participate in the process that defines our future. It is a Jewish obligation to do so, an opportunity to state, “Here I am, הִנֵּנִי”. It is way too easy to say that it is too difficult to decide, that one vote will not really matter, that a candidate is going to win regardless of my vote, or that the majority of a party is a sure thing. In a Jewish and Democratic state, we must declare “Here I am, הִנֵּנִי”. We fulfill our Jewish and democratic right and obligation, we want to impact our environment, the place that we live in. We as members of the Reform Movement cannot stand by the sidelines and expect that the results of the elections will be such that will be supportive of our values. We must evaluate the candidates, what they have done, what they have promised, what they did, and also what they did not do. Then we must try and make wise decisions and go out there and vote. The Reform Movement in Israel is not partisan, so say its bylaws, nonetheless this does not mean that our members should refrain from taking active part in any party they freely support, promoting the candidacy of such candidates that they genuinely believe in. We encourage each and every one of you to say “Here I am, הִנֵּנִי” and go out and vote.
Reuven Marko, 26 October 2018, 18 MarChesvan, 5779