15 December 2016
In this week’s parasha, Vayishlach, the famous wrestling match between Jacob and the mysterious stranger is among the more curious portions of the Torah. As Jacob prepared to meet his estranged brother Esau for the first time in 20 years, Jacob thought he was alone after he sends his family to the other side of the river. Instead he finds himself locked in an all-night battle with an unknown entity: An angel? A man? His own conscience? Perhaps the angel is symbolic of all those issues we would rather ignore and whether we choose to deal with them or not, they have a way of finding us.
This past Sunday, Rabbi Donniel Hartman, President of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, gave a brilliant lecture at Adas Israel as part of the Federation and Israel Embassy sponsored iEngage learning series involving 18 local synagogues. The goal of iEngage is to help us develop the language to constructively engage with one another – and with Israel – on significant issues. Professor Hartman spoke of the “Zionism of being” and the “Zionism of becoming” — the former describing what is; the latter describing what we aspire for Israel to be. It is around these aspirations that we in the Diaspora can, and must, connect and consider its – and our – future.
This week, the Shas party introduced to the Knesset a bill that would make it illegal to hold a pluralistic prayer service at the Kotel.
While there are clearly political machinations at work, Federation has come out adamantly opposed to such action, urging the dismissal of the bill. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, eloquently said, “This bill makes a mockery of all the efforts made by recent governments to ensure that the Western Wall is a place that unites, rather than divides, the Jewish people…[I]t is my fervent hope that this damaging bill will be summarily dismissed by a majority of the coalition and of the Knesset.”
The “Israel of becoming” is the homeland for ALL Jewish people. As Jacob wrestled with God, we, too, wrestle with significant issues that impact us as Jews in the Diaspora. In this particular case, it important that Israelis – and we – continue to wrestle on the same team.