The Torah Drash, a modern look at ancient words

Each week synagogues read the weekly Torah portion and rabbis seek modern meaning in ancient words.  This week Rabbi Chester, interim rabbi at Temple Isaiah this year, used the portion to look at our modern political situation. It’s worth reading.


Parshat Toldot: Genesis 25:19 – 28:9
I am one who believes that some things are fated. I believe in serendipity. To say it in Yiddish, I believe things are bashert. In a mystical way, I believe in the invisible lines of connection. All of these concepts come into play for me this week because of the timing of the midterm elections in our country with the parasha for this week. In other words, I don’t believe it was an accident that the portion Toldot fell in the same week as this important election.

We read at the beginning of Toldot about our matriarch Rebecca who was pregnant with twins: “The children struggled in her womb, and she said, ‘If so, why do I exist?’ She went to inquire of God who answered her, ’Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body.’” One mother is giving birth to two children.

We, too, are struggling in our mother nation. We, too, especially for the past few years, have been struggling about what we are as a nation. We have been two separate people who view one another with distain bordering on hatred. The portion continues: “One people shall be mightier than the other.” In the past two years we have experienced one people, one party mightier than the other. The mightier has tried to rule with an iron fist.

The mightier in our portion, Jacob, also ruled with a mighty hand. He usurped both his brother Esau’s birthright and blessing. There seemed to be no hope for him and Esau to repair the damage that had been done. There was no hope for reconciliation between the brothers until years later where, in another parasha, we find a much more mature Jacob who goes to meet with his brother Esau. The Torah tells us that when meeting, they hug one another. Interestingly enough, some rabbis tell us that they didn’t embrace, but that Esau, in his anger, bit Jacob on the neck.

Our 2 political parties have had differences since the time of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Our democratic mother land has struggled to keep these parties civil with one another to the present day. Sometimes she has been successful and sometimes not. Lately, she seems to ask, “Why do I exist?” With the present election, with one party in control of the House and the other in control of the Senate, struggling will still take place but perhaps there is hope. Hope that in the months ahead, the two parties will embrace one another for the betterment of our country. The choice is theirs. Will the embrace be a true embrace, a crossing over the aisle, or will it be a bite, drawing anger and revenge. Will there be continuing hostility or forgiveness and a striving for unity.

Rabbi Elazar ben Yehudah taught that “The most beautiful thing a person can do is forgive.” Commenting on this Rabbi Harvey Fields states:”Bearing grudges only prolongs hostility. Forgiveness and understanding are the only genuine way ways to reconciliation, cooperation, and peace. Perpetuating prejudices through slogans and names only increases human suffering.” It is time to move forward, to reconcile, co- operate, and decrease human suffering. It is time for both to be nurtured in the same womb of our Mother Land.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Chester