Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Shemot
As the Book of Exodus begins, we leave the Abrahamic narrative and launch a new chapter in our traditional heritage. We begin the Moses story. Moses was a great teacher; a prophet whose life story teaches us so much about standing up for justice and righteousness. Moses is not always righteous; often he loses patience … even faith, but he is always engaged … and always engaged with God. One of the great lessons we learn from the totality of the Moses story is that even the best of us fail sometimes. The best we can do is the best we can do; always striving to learn from what we have done to do whatever we are doing better next time. Moses and God often disagree. Sometimes, Moses is right, and God rethinks a decision. Sometimes, God is right, and Moses has to rethink. It is a wonderful relationship for whether it is God or Moses who is about to jump off the deep end in anger or frustration, they talk each other off the cliff and help vest each other back into reality. Completely aside from the “Religious” aspects that affix to this Biblical storyline, we find in this relationship the very type of friendship that lasts a lifetime, and that keeps us focused on growing and loving.
We need this message this week. Today is a difficult day in our history. Whichever side of the politic one finds himself; loving this new President or holding him in disdain, our nation is split, and best friends forget to return to each other after the fight. In Torah, a new Pharaoh arose who knew not Joseph. I have seen the commentaries that make the argument that like Pharaoh, Mr. Trump wants to make our country great again by enslaving our nation’s poor, disenfranchised, or minority populations. I have also read the commentaries that point out that it takes a new Pharaoh to change the system and root out corruption and abuses of process and resources.
On the one hand, Joseph saved Egypt and the world from the famine. A new Pharaoh not recognizing or acknowledging what he did for Egypt is a blight on national integrity. On the other hand, in saving Egypt, Joseph made Egyptians sell themselves into slavery to Pharaoh just to buy back the grain that Pharaoh took from them during the years of excess harvest. A new Pharaoh has the chance of saving the integrity of the great nation.
Take your pick, both are prophetic commentaries, and we have no way of knowing which will prove correct.
The problem is that in this debate, we are asking the wrong questions because prophecy is not about predicting the future. Prophecy is the ability to change one’s heart and mindset. Seeing both of these commentaries, and knowing the validity of both, the question that begs for an answer is quite simple, “Whichever the resultant truth, what good is either if we remain divided and exiled from each other?” Whether this president is the national villain or the national savior; neither will matter if we continue to grow the chasm between us. We can celebrate this day. We can mourn this day. I think that if we learn how to celebrate each other again, this country will be great, whatever happens in its politics.
I am a prisoner of hope. Where I think that our government strays from the best interest of America, I will make my voice heard … that is what we are supposed to do as Americans … it is what we are supposed to do as people of faith. As people of faith, though, we are first commanded to engage and strengthen our relationships with each other. In fact, our daily liturgy demands that we make peace where there is strife, and Torah demands that we turn our enemy into our friend. Where we learn to speak and share with each other, we will find that there is far less over which we have to forcefully disagree. I wish our President well because I wish America well. My prayer is that whatever and whoever is in our best interest has the greatest say in forging our future. Shabbat Shalom.