AN UNTROUBLED LIFE

PARASHAT VAYESHEV We open with Jacob sitting contentedly in his rocking chair, "And Jacob lived in the land of the sojournings of his fathers..." Seems peaceful enough. Jacob thought life was good: 12 sons, at least one daughter, living in the land God intended, no sign of trouble on the horizon. And then boom: his favorite son is taken away; two grandchildren die; he is nearly destroyed psychologically by his loses, particularly losing Joseph. We, who know the end of the story, that Joseph is not really dead and the two will be restored, can feel that all will turn out well. But not only does Jacob not know the outcome, also before he and his son are restored he will be told that his other sons betrayed him mercilessly, and it was they who brought this tsores into his life. Will he ever forgive them? We read daily of the massacres in Aleppo; the nearly 4,000 refugees who died seeking asylum by crossing the Mediterranean in 2016; those murdered this week in Germany by a Tunisian man who hijacked a truck, and more. Yet, virtually everyone I know is focused on living under Donald Trump. My goal is not to downplay the trouble ahead, including the last few days and the prospects of a nuclear buildup. With the planned erosion of the EPA, Planned Parenthood, the Dept of Energy and so much more, we can focus constantly on our worries. Yet, I know that the vast majority of people in the world would exchange their troubles for ours without a moment's hesitation. Any prospect of elevation in the nuclear threat raises anxiety. But our day to day existence, for most of us, has not changed and is exceedingly good compared to North Africa and most other places in the world. Like Jacob, we don't know the end of the story. But I imagine that many responsible for the great institutions of American life, Senators and Congressman, Justices of the Supreme Court, military leaders, governors and legislatures, are even now considering how to curtail and educate the "Tweeter in Chief." Perhaps part of our anxiety, for some, is relinquishing an exquisitely comfortable existence and acknowledging that we did not anticipate having our political world turned topsy-turvy. But I am reminded of Dave Chappell and Chris Rock on Saturday Night Live after the election, and moreso a friend of mine who lives in Kansas City and is African-American, all of whom said that the disruption to our notion of law and order, a democratic society, the treatment of minorities and the rise in hatred, is what they have dealt with literally their entire lives. My friend basically said, "Welcome to my world." We ought to consider that, and to give thanks for our previously comparably untroubled lives. Now is the time for planning, for determination, for discovering others who share our values and are willing to act. Now is not a time to despair. And perhaps also, to thank God for the many blessings we have enjoyed for so long. Chag Urim sameach and shabbat shalom.

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© 2016 by Rabbi Mark H. Levin.