Friday, November 27, 2009

Genesis Vayetzei Verses 28:10-32:3

It is Jacob's turn to find a wife. Like his father and grandfather he goes to find a girl from Haran where Abraham originated. One night Jacob camps out and has a dream. In the dream is a latter of angels ascending and descending from the heavens above. Then, he hears God's voice. God tells Jacob that this is the domain of God's people, to build from the north, south, east, and west. Jacob wakes up and realizes this is not just a dream, but a commandment. He promises to return when he has found his wife.

Jacob meets his uncle Laban. Laban has a farm and two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Jacob fell deeply in love with Rachel. Laban asks Jacob to work on the farm. He says name your price and Jacob only wants to take Rachel, his love to be his wife after seven years of labor. After seven years, the day arrives and instead of Rachel, Laban asks for his other daughter who is older to be wed off. Laban promises after another seven years he can marry Rachel. Jacob waited and labored only because he really loved Rachel. Over the seven years, Jacob's mates conceive Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah,Dan,Nephtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar,Zebulon, Joseph, and Dinah. After hard work of fourteen years total, Laban does not guarantee that Jacob can leave with Rachel! Jacob, Rachel, and Leah leave after this mistreation and take the flocks with them. All that tricky Laban had, Jacob earned.

Back in those days people worked to keep their farms going. They did not have a taxes or insurance, but Jacob worked for true love. Of all the sons and daughter, Jacob had Joseph was the only one Rachel conceived. Parents do not work to work today. Parents do not even work to get payed. They work because they care about the family they support.

If I had to give yesterday a title I would call it, "A Thanksgiving of a Different Kind". Usually, we make the whole shebang. From the turkey and gravy to the name cards and pilgrim hats we do it all. Yesterday we were worked in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon. Instead of working around our kitchen watching the various balloons trot down Broadway, we worked and helped serve Thanksgiving to Hopkinton seniors and those who were hungry. To see a senior smile when she got the first glance at her mashed potatoes and stuffing made me exfoliate with happiness. I guess I worked for my love of my making others happy. I am glad there was no Laban tricks at my work yesterday. Work to love and I guarantee you will like your job that much more. (Even if you can not stand it!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Genesis Toldot Verses 25:8-28:9

After reading this parshat I was amazed. The power that Parshat Toldot can do is riveting. Abraham has passed and Isaac is beyond his time in the "Jewish Royal Family". Rebekah gives birth to the world's first twins as far as we know. First came Esau, then Jacob. Since Esau was first, he gets the birth rights and his father's blessing. Isaac favors Esau and Rebekah favors Jacob. Later, Esau trades his birth right to Jacob for of all thing a bowl of porridge. I ate oatmeal while reading that part coincidentally. Finally, when it is time to get Isaac's blessing he is very elderly and blind. Isaac asked Esau to gather a meal before he gives the blessing out. Rebekah is listening though. She spills the beans to Jacob and Jacob does it before Esau. By portraying Esau by making fake hairy arms, Jacob gets the blessing. When Esau arrives he gets nothing.

Were Jacob and Rebekah right? Jacob lied to his own father. Was Isaac right? Jacob was more fit for the position. Lying is not right, but neither is favoritism. I am on Jacob's side. I am a younger sibling and if my father prefer my sister, Rachel supperior to me I would not tolerate it. Like an investigator must go undercover and lie to do the right thing I think Jacob did the same.

It does make us feel bad for Esau. Esau is left without a blessing. Does executive power have to be solitary? I do not see why Jacob and Esau can not share the position of patriarch. In our country, power is shared. There is only one president, but he/she have checks and balances with Congress and the Supreme Court. Executive power does not have to be solitary, but can be shared by numerous amounts of people.

Take an apple tree. An apple tree can not produce the fruit of its labor without air, water, soil, and sunshine. Jacob is the apple tree. Esau is like fertilizer to the soil. Although not necessary, without fertilizer the tree's fruit is only average. Favoritism is like a drought or a cloudy day, it kills the tree. Parents, are your apple tree thriving. Children, do you deserve to be thrived upon.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Genesis Chayei Sarah Verses 23:1-25:18

This portion's title translates to the Life of Sarah. On the contrary, this portion begins with Sarah's passing and ends with Abraham's passing. When Sarah passes on she is not in her native territory of Canaan. Abraham must purchase a field to bury Sarah. After that, Abraham sends a servant to find Isaac a wife. He sends the servant to Haran rather than Canaan. In Haran, the servant finds a beautiful girl named Rebekah. When Abraham finds out his servant has returned, he dies. Abraham is buried in the same place as Sarah.

Last week I went to a Bat Mitzvah for my friend from New Jersey, Aliza. She read Chayei Sarah brilliantly. In her Dvar Torah she told how she is like Sarah which I can see. Sarah is an organizer and Aliza is passionate about organizing a number of causes. They are also both insightful and loyal. Congratulations to Aliza and her family!

So what are the Jewish ideas of afterlife? There are none! Every Jew has their own idea of afterlife. God lives in the heavens above. In the Torah, it only mentions life. Unlike Greece or Egypt, Ancient Hebrews celebrated life rather than concern their afterlives. Celebrate life to the fullest.

Sarah and Aliza were and always will be positive. It is admirable to see energy brought into our world so vividly. In middle school mornings are tough. We wake up at 6 in the morning and are immediately pressed with a load of decisions. What clothes should I wear? What time do I have to be at the door? By the time a student gets to school they can be very grumpy. We all have those kinds of mornings and I think there is only one cure, joy. I come in with a smile bigger than the world and say good morning to anyone who I see and I know.

My idea of death is focused around the day I die. I think that the minute we die we go into judgement. God decides if we are a good person or a bad person. The good people go to live in heaven watching over Earth seeing more good be done. The bad people, do not. The Torah is a Tree of Life, death is in it so that we can celebrate more life. Yes, the Jewish idea of death is life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Veterans Day

Just as I said in my parshat last week, people must learn to intertwine their roots. I have decided I am going to take some of the American holidays from the country I was born in and put a "Jewish Spin" on them from the faith I observe.

Veterans Day is a slightly Jewish holiday. Israel has had to defend themselves in many conflicts. On the other hand the United States has gotten itself into many conflicts. From the time our country was started it was fighting.

Israel laps Veterans Day and Memorial Day together. The holiday is called Yom Hazikaron. Just like our Veterans Day it is quickly neglected as a "Minor Holiday". In the United States, I believe Veterans Day is reemerging to be a holiday of more importance. One reason may be that we are currently in a war. It has done a good job staying up there with the "Hallmark Holidays". However, Yom Hazikaron is the day before Israel's Independence Day. Although they go together Independence Day out shines honoring the Armed Forces.

People may think "What is the Jewish outlook on war?". We sing songs like "Shalom Rav" which is when we pray for peace, but Israel has not been in peace since 1948. Jews do not want war. We believe in peace. It is just impossible when all the countries around our native land believe in one mutual thing, the destruction of Israel.

I agree with Andy Rooney who said on Sunday that no matter what time it is war is still uncivilized. No matter if it is throwing rocks in the early ages of man to the weapons of mass destruction that were alleged to be in the Middle East war is brutal in any form.

On this Veteran's Day I ask you to remember those who served. No matter if its the United States, Israel or even Kazakhstan wars are fought for freedom. The Iraq War was originally fought for the freedom of Iraq from their dictator Saddam Hussein. The Gaza War is for Palestinians and Jews to have freedom to their homeland. "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves." -Abraham Lincoln

Friday, November 06, 2009

Genesis Vayera 18:1-22:24

Abraham and Sarah are living in Caanan in this chapter. The patriarch and matriarch were getting and old. Abraham knew that Sarah medically could not have a baby. God could have end L'dor V'dor right then and there. Instead, God says to Sarah that she will bore a new born at the next season and Sarah laughs for she is very old and can not. In the last chapter they tried to solve this issue, Abraham bore a child with his servant. She bore the child, Ishmael. To Sarah's surprise she bore Issac, as God had guaranteed. Even though Issac was the child who was chosen to carry on as heir of the Hebrews, God promised that Abraham his children would be upheld by all the world's nations.

I think of Abraham as the patriarch of 3 faiths. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Sarah bore Issac, father of the Hebrews. Christianity is a form of "evolved Judaism." Jesus was a Jewish man. Finally, Ishmael is considered father of the Arabs. Is God true when the Torah states, "All of the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants." (Genesis 22:18)?

Below is a world religion map. It is hard to see, so I posted the link to see it more clear.( Most of the modern world is Jewish, Christian, or Islamic. However, parts of it are not. India's major religion is Hinduism. (magenta colored countries) is In China, it is Buddhism. (orange colored countries) It makes some sense that these parts of the world are not where there are the "3 Abraham Faiths". Abraham left Mesopotamia to go west to Canaan. Ancient Persia was not visited by the Jews until about the time of Esther. Ancient China was never visited by the Jews. It makes us wonder what the world would be like had Abraham gone east.

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
―Linus Van Pelt in "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

Although written as a comedic statement this is very true. People generally are opposed to differences. Why? They should not be. I enjoy to learn about different cultures, and religions. Spanish has been a very amusing language to discover. We are brought up to follow the values of our ancestors. But just as trees do in nature, we must learn to intertwine our roots.