These & These are my Brothers

Not long ago, I would watch “House of Cards” and wonder if I’m in the middle of a news report. Now I watch the news and can only hope I am in the middle of a crazy Netflix show that has gone terribly wrong…

This week’s images from Israel reminded many of Yamit. And Gush Katif. But just because something looks the same, does not mean it is exactly the same. What’s the difference?
In the past, we spoke about security concerns; once, we even got peace. But now it’s because we, the people who brought to the world the belief in the One G-d, the Torah and (amazing!) Talmud, the basis for civil law in the modern world; who created a miraculous “homeland”, who sent airplanes and secret missions to save people in heroic operations; who survived against all odds for thousands of years and are called to be a light unto the nations – can’t figure out how to peacefully rearrange a few plots of land with minimum harm to those involved.
And still, not maximizing on the best solution, would be the least of it. For while some are pained and torn, trying to pack 18 years into a suitcase, others are cheering against them, joyful at those hurting.
Amona is not the issue, but it does serve as a mirror to how far we’ve gone. To paraphrase Yehuda Amichai, redemption will come only when we can shift our viewpoint, and begin to see each other.

And while we’re on seeing:
This week we encounter the three last plagues, and among them – the plague of darkness. Some say, it was a darkness that had thickness. But some say, it was not too dark to see, just too dark to recognize one another. And yet, the midrash tells us, that in some places, there was light. What was that light? The Torah. How so? Not as a religious coercion and an oppressive list of do’s and don’t’s but as an expansive way of life that invites us to step out of ourselves and care for another; a way of light, Torah-Or.
Ten whole Plagues. Days, weeks and months of preparations, including even time to collect gold and silver vessels. And suddenly, chipazon!! A great and almost frantic rush. Get out! Get out! Never mind the dough! Just go!
What’s going on?
The Exodus was not a surprise. We knew it was coming. There was a “process”. After years of slavery, we had to slowly be reminded that there is a tomorrow; learn that there is hope; that things can actually get better, that we matter, all things that, as slaves, we could not even imagine. That build up was necessary, and had to be gradual, just like when picking up anyone out of any bad situation…
But then one day, it’s time to go. And go we must in chipazon – חיפזון.
Rabbi Hirsch says the root ch.p.z. ח.פ.ז. means – hasten aimlessly. Aimlessly?? Aren’t we going to freedom??
We’re going, that’s for sure. We don’t yet know where to. G-d says to Moses, to a land of milk and honey. Moses says to Pharaoh, it’s just a quick trip to celebrate a festival. The experience of the people must be super confusing. Strange things happen all around: the river turns to blood, frogs everywhere, lice, animals… It’s no wonder there is “darkness”.
But then comes a day…
The battered woman who prepared her get-away carefully, waiting for that once in a lifetime window of opportunity, now must act; Our kidnapped soldier from Chatufim who couldn’t even dream that it’s possible, is now being whisked out secretly with no time for goodbyes to his captives (with whom he’s gotten close!); And the Children of Israel, who “all of a sudden” are in such a hurry that they can’t finish making sandwiches for the trip.
The two Torah portions – of patience and haste – go hand in hand. There is time for the lengthy prep, but then comes the time to just get up and go.
With the Exodus, we receive the first mitzvah as a people: creating a calendar by setting the new moon and keeping track of time. And the question comes up again: if the Torah is all about doing mitzvoth, why not start right here? Why drag us all the way back to Genesis, the creation of the world etc? Who cares? Maybe because the Torah is not the constitution, and not a dry list of laws, but so much more.

Shabbat Shalom.

These & these are my brothers

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