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A house divided against itself cannot stand. A truism that has been known for a longtime. It is equally true that, within any community, there are going to be divergent opinions. The solution to keeping the community together is not ignoring the differences, but embracing them. With due credit for the thought to Jonathan Brodie, a local Melton teacher, I am strengthened by the fact that you practice Judaism differently than I do. This isn't tolerance. It's something more. It's a recognition that people of good faith can have different understandings of what their faith teaches. The idea that there is "one true Judaism" seems almost antithetical to the very nature and essence of Judaism! What matters is that each of us is attempting, to the best of their abilities and understandings, to be part of our covenant with Gd. That we each may do it a little differently is our strength and not our weakness.
Ezekiel's vision, in the haftarah for Vayigash, is of a people gathered from galut in Babylon and returned to the land, to be ruled over by one king of the Davidic line. How appropriate that this represents the coming together of the tribes of Israel, just as in parashat Vayigash we seen the reunification of Jacob's family.
If Jacob, Joseph, and his brothers and family can put aside all that has transpired between them and re-unify, then so can we all.
Times are not the same. Even scholars as great at Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and Rabbi Arthur Herztberg disagree on whether Israel should be center of Judaism and Jewish learning. (Personally, Rabbi Steinsaltz's suggestion that we work to create another great center of Jewish learning here in American galut resonates more strongly than Rabbi Hertzberg's insistence that Israel should be the only such center.) Yet, whether we see the Jewish future as being only in Israel, or only in galut, or flourishing in both, the key is that we all want to see it flourish.
So, while Ezekiel's vision for one Jewish people united again under a single king in Israel may not be the best vision for our own time, its vision of ONE PEOPLE, an am echad, is what we must strive to achieve. And it may come to pass that, some day, we will all be reunited as one people on the land the Gd promised to our ancestors, and the word of the Lrd shall go forth from Zion and Jerusalem. And if it should be that this world transformation will come from more than one place, so be it. Maybe more than one place, but always one people.
©2004 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some Previous Musings on the same parasha
Vayigash 5763-Things Better Left Unsaid
Vayigash 5761-Checking In
Vayigash 5762-Teleology 101: Does Gd Play Dice With the World?
Vayigash 5764-Incidental Outcomes and Alternate Histories
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