With 2017 approaching, you might be evaluating 2016 and asking yourself how you want to do things differently, change your world for the better and be the best you ever?
For the past few months, I have focused on dance and my creative movement teaching work with children. I stopped studying Torah but with Winter break now in effect, I decided to swing back in for a class with Rabbi Lawrence Kushner of Temple Emanuel. The group consists of about 10 individuals, most well over 60, if not 70. I am always the youngest attendee, maybe because we meet at 9 am on Saturdays. I love it because I always learn a lesson and see things in a new perspective. Rabbi Kushner is a painter and has a great sense of humor. He explains the often obscure Torah portion in a way that relates to our current times.
Last week, we explored the relationship between Jacob and Esau and their descendants, the Israelites and the Edomites. Jacob was later called Israel and Esau called Edom.
Isaac and his wife Rebekah had twin sons, Esau and Jacob. Esau was older and therefore had the birthright of receiving the inheritance. However, Jacob pulled a trick on his brother. He asked Esau after a long day of hunting, if he wanted to trade his birthright for a bowl of lentil soup. Esau, obviously very hungry, said ok sounds like a good deal to me. Well, maybe he didn’t quite say it that way but he symbolically decided to trade something of substance and eternal (his birthright) for something to soothe temporarily his physical comfort and needs (food).
It is written G.d loved Jacob and hated Esau. Why? We don’t know. Similarly why did G.d chose Abraham and not any other man? The Torah doesn’t say. He liked Abraham. Similarly G.d liked Jacob and didn’t like Esau. Poor guy…I feel sorry for him.
Rabbi Kushner explained that our enemies often are very similar to us. For us to hate another, we must deep down love them. Indeed, Esau and Jacob were so close that they even shared the same WOMB!!! You can’t get closer than that. Yet these brothers became enemies and their descendants enemies for generations.
So, in your life why do you not like a co-worker, still harbor hatred and resentment against an ex, a family member bugs you like no other? Rabbi Kushner recommended we ask ourselves how do we fear that we may be like this person in some way? Once you can find peace with this fear and quality, the issues with your so-called enemy will resolve naturally. We fear that we have the very quality that we despise in the other. The reason we see a flaw in an enemy is because we may have that quality in ourselves and it is not resolved. Deep down we fear that quality may blossom in us and that trigger causes a reaction.
Indeed, love and hate are often two sides of the same coin. Why else would married couples hate each other while loving one another or divorced couples say such horrible things about the person they vowed to love until death do they part?
I find the word enemy to be very strong. I luckily have no enemies. I do sometimes not jive well with someone or respect their ways. Maybe I like G.d simply don’t like them for some mysterious reason.
Ask yourself this, how can you in 2017, have more peace with your family, co-workers and community? How can you forgive more, bring more compassion to the table and be a better listener? We are all still learning.
As Dr. Levry says, all we can do is to try to be better everyday.