Drash on Toldot: Genesis 24:19-28:9
Rabbi Em Mueller
Sim Shalom Online Jewish Universalist Synagogue
November 29, 2016
How do we learn to get along with other people, especially if we can’t get along with our own literal sisters and brothers? This week’s parashah (Torah reading), Toldot (Generations: Genesis 25:19-28:9) tells us that even in the womb Jacob and his twin, Esau, were fighting. Indeed, their mom, Rebekah, talked to God about her painful situation:
Genesis 25:22-23 tells us: She went to ask God why this struggle, and God answered her: “Two nations are in your womb, two separate peoples shall issue from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.”
What happens after their birth? Does the struggle continue as they grow up? Probably, since Rebekah loved Jacob best and Isaac loved Esau, the older brother. Then Esau sells his inheritance to Jacob for a bowl of lentils; and, with Rebekah’s help, Jacob steals the blessing from their father, Isaac, which was meant for Esau. This last act of aggression leaves Jacob with no option but to run away, or, he is afraid, his brother will kill him.
He is gone for 20 plus years. When he returns, a wealthy man, he greets his brother with deference and fear: Is his brother still angry at him? No. Together, the brothers rejoice in seeing each other again.
What has happened in the interim? What caused this ability to find a new, kinder relationship? A few things: The brothers grew up; they established their own homes, their own families, their own wealth. Now they could meet as equals.
The key here is equals. We are fortunate when time and distance are available to equalize the standing of individuals, but that is rarely the case. More often, an unequal relationship remains that way: unequal. This teaches us that we must ACT; we must not wait for equality to magically appear — like the creation of the world in a literal six days. In this real world, we have to work together to bring about equality, through hard work for justice, and with empathy for those who need our voices.