Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mother and Child Reunion

Mother and Child Reunion

Sermon Saturday Morning

Parshat Vayiggash


Shabbat Shalom

Commentators on the Bible look at the reunion of Joseph and his brothers and they raise an interesting point to ponder. Joseph was away from home for 21 years before he was reconciled with his family. Why is it that he never sent a message home to his father telling him what had happened and where he was? You would think that a young boy far from home would want to get in touch with his worried father. But for 21 years, Joseph makes no attempt to contact his family. Why?

To be fair, when he was a slave in Potifer’s house, he probably did not have the freedom to send a message home. Why would his master allow him to contact his family? And for the years he was in prison, it certainly was impossible to send a message to anyone. But for eight years, he has been the second most powerful man in Egypt. Why would he not send a message to his family through one of the many servants he had in his household?

Rambam and many other commentators are puzzled by this failure of Joseph. Joseph knew that his father loved him and must have been heartbroken when Joseph disappeared. Joseph must have surely missed his father and he would want to be reunited with his father as soon as possible. And yet, this is clearly not the case. Joseph seems to not care at all about his father, his family and the life he left behind.

Suddenly, in this week’s parsha, Joseph breaks down crying and finally admits his real identity to his brothers. What happened that suddenly he has such strong feelings for the family he has cut out of his life? Clearly it is something that Judah says, in his long speech to save the little Benjamin from the accusations of theft at the end of last week’s parsha. It is interesting to note that Judah mentions the word “Father” 14 times in 17 verses; all intended to invoke pity and compassion in the heart of this cruel Egyptian viceroy. I don’t think any of this worked at all on Joseph. It was something else Judah said, that triggered Joseph’s tears.

Why did Joseph forget his family? I think that from the moment he was sold into slavery, he expected his father would do what any father would be expected to do. Come looking for him. Interviewing travelers, sending word to distant cities, riding across trackless deserts to find his missing son. But the years went by and nobody came looking for Joseph. What could be going through Joseph’s mind? How many years did he watch the horizon thinking that any moment his family would arrive and save him from his slavery. How long did he wait for the father who never came? Finally Joseph came to the only possible conclusion; his father was in on the plot. Jacob had sent Joseph to find his brothers. Jacob must have known and approved Joseph’s sale into slavery!

For 21 years he believed that his family had thrown him out. Joseph had no need to contact his family. They didn’t love him or care for him at all. We, the readers know the full story but Joseph only knows that nobody at all came looking for him. Nobody cared.

Suddenly, in Judah’s speech, Joseph hears, for the first time, that Jacob believed that Joseph was killed by a wild animal. Suddenly the whole picture changes. Of course Jacob loved Joseph. Of course he would have turned over every possible stone to find his lost son. But Jacob thought Joseph was torn apart by a lion or a bear. Jacob had buried what he thought was the remains of his son, so he never thought to go looking in Egypt or anywhere else. Joseph had jumped to a conclusion that was plain wrong, and quickly the tears well up in his eyes. “I am not dead, I am Joseph, does our father really still live?” In just a few sentences the family is reconciled and the hurts of the past are all forgotten. Jacob will die with ALL his sons around him. All is forgiven and all turns out to be a blessing.

I sometimes wish I could teach this lesson to everyone who comes to see me with a tale of a family broken by perceived slights and dishonor. Sometimes it is a parent who “dares” to remarry after the death of a spouse and the kids are unforgiving. Sometimes it is a parent who feels that the children don’t sufficiently honor the very parent who gave them life and raised them from an infant into the ungrateful adults they are today. Sometimes it is words spoken in anger that hurt so much, a family is torn asunder. Sometimes brothers and sisters just drift apart, neither one prepared to call the other to find out what went wrong.

I know, I really know. Family divisions run deep and are hard to heal. It is not for me to judge at all why there is a wedge between members of a family. I have heard the stories of the pain, the hurt, and the ungrateful slights. It is not for me to say that one side or the other is “really” at fault. Many times parents have said to me that if I had ungrateful kids like their children, I would write them out of my family too.

I also know, however, that families can be reconciled. And when they do reconcile, they often discover that, like Joseph, much of what they remember as painful, was not really true at all. And if it was, at one time, very hurtful, time can heal that wound and the love that draws us together seeks to reunite us with those who are estranged. When families are reconciled, they cry over the love that has returned, and they cry over the lost years, when they could have been close had they not wasted the time in what has turned out to be a petty feud.

Please don’t be mad at me if I ask you, as we rapidly approach the end of one secular year and the beginning of another, to try once more at reconciliation. It may not make a difference. There still may be too much pain and hurt to be reunited. I can’t promise that it will make everything better, but I feel that it is always worth it to try. Don’t think that I don’t understand what it means to extend a hand and have someone turn their back on you. I know that heartbreak. I know that hurt. But I also know that reconciliation often does not come easily but it is, in the end, always worth the time and effort. It may take a while to reunite a family, it may take years. It may take us to our dying day. We can’t and shouldn’t make ourselves crazy chasing after something impossible. In spite of all of this, I believe that it is important to remember, every day is a new day, and life is a long time. Reconciliation can come in a moment, in the blink of an eye. It is important that we should always be ready, to open our eyes, open our hearts and open our arms to the love we long for.

If Joseph can forgive his brothers, and he does forgive them for all that happened, we too must find our way to restore our family ties. Maybe something we will say in 2010 will be the key to unlocking the love that seems so far away and we too can be reconciled with parents, siblings and children.

My prayer, as we see the light of day once again push back the darkness of night, that we too will find our way through the darkness of anger and pain, and try once more to restore light to our lives and to the life of our family. May God bless us in the New Year with light, life and love as we say…

Amen and Shabbat Shalom

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stand By Me

Stand By Me
Sermon Saturday Morning
Parshat Miketz

Shabbat Shalom

This is the final day of Hanukah. While we still say Hallel, and Al HaNissim, we realize that the gifts are all given and the latkes and sufganiot are all eaten and tonight we will just put our Hanukiyot away for another year.

Hanukah is the festival of dedication. The time we remember how the Maccabees fought so hard to be able to live in their land, free to worship God as they pleased. They did not stop when they rededicated the Temple; they did not stop their war with the Syrian Greeks until they had liberated all of the cities of Israel.

We live in a different time. We live in a time when we have a State of Israel, a State that has been the center of our faith for over 60 years. I am sure that there are many people here who remember a time when there was no State of Israel. Israel is our modern miracle. There is now a special Al HaNissim, a special prayer that we recite on Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day, that is parallel to the Al HaNissim we say on Hanukah. The two miracles are thus linked through our modern commitment to a free Jewish State.

But how are we to show our dedication to Israel today? We may live in the United States but we understand that all Jews, all over the world, must stand with Israel. Israel is there for us and we must be there for her. Certainly there is no shortage of people in the world who would like nothing else but to see the Jewish State fail. So far, these enemies remain disappointed. Israel, even with all her problems, is an active democracy in a neighborhood of dictators and oppression.

So what must a Jew in Delray Beach; on Long Island, New York, or in Boston Mass. do to show our support for Israel? I think that there are five ways we can support Israel. In a perfect world, we would be responsible for all five equally, but given our different economic and personal health issues, we should at least try and do as many of these five as we can.

Far and away, the number one, most important thing we can do to support Israel and to show Israel that we stand by her side, is to go and visit Israel. I say this not only because we are offering a trip to Israel in April, but because I want everyone to know why I think such trips are important. During the first Intifada, when it seemed that every other day a bus was bombed in Jerusalem, a 48 hour trip to Israel was put together and I and many other rabbis from around the country went directly to Israel to show our support in those trying days. Many people asked me then why I would go to such a dangerous place like Israel. I would answer simply that for 2000 years other people told Jews that they were forbidden to visit Israel. Now that we have the freedom to visit, why should I let anyone scare me away? My ancestors would have risked their lives for just the possibility of visiting Israel. For them and for those who live in Israel, I visit as often as I can and encourage others to visit as well.

If we are not standing IN Israel, we should be standing up FOR Israel. Israel needs the support of the entire Jewish people. This is a political decision and we must not waver in our political support for our Jewish state. Our work for the United Jewish Communities, both the money we give and the rallies we attend show that wherever we stand, we stand with Israel. It is not a small thing. Notice when you attend such a rally, how local politicians take the time to come out and attend. The size of the crowd is important and our presence makes a statement about our support for Israel.

AIPAC is another organization that continually stands up for Israel. If you have never lobbied a Representative or a Senator in Congress, you can not know how important it is to let our Congressmen and women know, in person, that we care enough about Israel to walk the halls of the nation’s capital to speak up for the State of Israel. Between appropriation bills, bills that support the military and immigration to Israel, and those bills that condemn Israel’s enemies, lobbying Congress is a meaningful way to help our Representatives know the importance of a good national relationship between the United States and Israel. If you have never been to an AIPAC Policy Conference, I encourage you to attend. You will meet high level experts in foreign relations, have dinner with members of Congress and the diplomatic corp. and you will have the chance to visit our representatives in their own offices to speak to the issues that are important to the American/Israel relations. UJC and AIPAC are eight letters of the alphabet that spell important support for Israel.

The third way we can support Israel is to stand up for Pluralism in the Jewish State. I believe that if there is a danger to Israel, it will come from those religious fanatics who do not understand either the politics of living in the world today, or who are willing to send others into war to protect their own self interest. There are many Zionist organizations that work to make Israel a better society. I prefer over the secular or the religious parties, the party of pluralism and Conservative Judaism, Mercaz. I don’t know if you realize that in our synagogue lobby are the forms to become a member of this unique Jewish institution. Funds donated to Israel go through the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency is made up of representatives of all the official Zionist parties. Mercaz is one of these parties and the more representatives we have, the more money goes to projects promoting religious freedom and pluralism. Mercaz makes sure that all monies that go to Israel are distributed fairly to all Israelis, not just those in favored parties.

The Masorti Movement does the daily work to provide Masorti/Traditional Judaism to the citizens of Israel. Masorti is the Conservative Movement in Israel. It operates Masorti synagogues and institutions. It pays for rabbis the State refuses to pay; it provides care for Russian immigrants, food and clothing for the poor, Jewish education for children that is fair and balanced and egalitarian. It also provides a Jewish education for Jewish children with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. To see one of these children become Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a joy that bring tears to the eyes of all who understand the meaning of what religion is all about. When we travel to Israel, we will have the chance to see these Masorti institutions in action.

The next level of support for Israel is to support the growth of Israel. We need to help Israel invest in her future. That is role of Israel Bonds. Israel Bonds allows us to participate in the massive public works programs that bring electricity and roads to every part of the country. Along side of Israel Bonds is JNF, the Jewish National Fund. For almost 100 years JNF has developed the natural resources in Israel, especially the forests and the water supply. JNF not only plants the trees that have helped Israel push back the desert, the first country to ever reverse desertification, but it also provides the water used by almost every segment of Israeli society. Little wonder that here at Temple Emeth; we have special events to help raise money for both Israel Bonds and JNF where we also honor those who have helped Israel during the last six decades of growth.

The final level of support we can give to Israel is to support the People of Israel We can do this through our support of the Magen David Adom, the Red Magen David, and our support for the many universities of Israel. ARMDI supplies not only ambulances for Israel, but critical care clinics and they operate the country’s blood banks. Support for ARMDI is support for the health care of Israel.

Hebrew University, Haifa University, Bar Ilan University, Ben Gurion University and the Schechter Institute are important schools that provide the best education to the young men and women after they have finished their military service to the country. I know that there are many yeshivot in Israel that also ask us for money but I choose not to support those who do not support a pluralistic society in Israel. These large universities and the Schechter Institute, the Masorti Rabbinical School in Israel, reach out to all segments of Israeli society to provide the science, technology and the humanities that are the basis of modern civilization. They also all provide intense Jewish learning, with some of the greatest scholars of Bible, Talmud and Jewish History. When we support Israel’s great universities, we are supporting the future of Israel.

There is much we can do to show our support for Israel. With our money certainly, but with our time and with our hands and feet as well. While every dollar we give to Israel makes a difference, we make an even bigger difference when we put our whole selves into our support for Israel. I can only ask that you join me and the many other members of Temple Emeth to visit Israel this spring. The information is out in the lobby, read it, and if you are ready to go, ask in the office for a registration form and send it back with your deposit. Reserve your place on this mission of support for the land and people of Israel. If you can’t join us, then use one of these other paths; political support, support for a pluralistic society, support for Israel’s infrastructure and support for the people of Israel, to let our Jewish State know that we all stand by her side, in good times and in bad; so that Israel will be the light of our faith and of the faith of our children and grandchildren even to the fourth and fifth generation.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Part of the Plan

Sermon Saturday Morning

Parshat Vayeshev


Shabbat Shalom

Man Plans and God Laughs – It is a proverb that we think about almost every day. We plan our day, our time, so carefully and then God comes along and upsets all of our plans.

There is a famous story of the Baron Rothschild, before he became a Baron, when he was friends with the Archduke, the ruler of Austria. Rothschild was walking down the street when the carriage of the Archduke pulled up right next to him. The Archduke was thrilled to see his friend and asked him, “Rothschild, where are you going?” Rothschild thought for a moment and answered, “I don’t know”. The Archduke suddenly grew very angry, “I was going to offer you a ride in my carriage but for being so insolent, I am going to have my officers arrest you and throw you in jail!”

The next day, the Archduke cooled down and brought his friend up from the prison. “Rothschild” he said, “You really can’t talk to me like that. I know you are my friend, but if I ask you where you are going, you have to give me an answer.” Rothschild replied, “But, Your Highness, I gave you the most honest answer I could give. It is true that when I set out from my home I was planning on going to the market, but the moment your carriage pulled up beside me, I had no idea where I was going to end up. In fact, instead of the market, I ended up in jail! I gave you the only answer I could honestly give!”

In our Parsha, It seems that Joseph cannot open his mouth without saying something that will infuriate his brothers. From just a simple reading of the text we get a picture of a young boy who is acting like a spoiled brat. Tattling on his brothers, parading around in the coat their father gave him, and spouting off dreams of his family bowing before him. This is not a child looking for approval from his family. He is a spoiled brat, and because his father will not punish him, the brothers hate him even more.

Jacob had to know that Joseph was despised by his brothers. Joseph certainly knew that they hated him. That is why it is so surprising that Jacob sends Joseph off to check up on the brothers who are out tending to the sheep. We know right away that no good is going to come from this mission. In fact, we need only look back on what happened when two other brothers, one who hated the other, went out into the fields. It was there, far from home, that Cain killed his brother Abel. This is going to be a doomed mission.

There is a moment of relief, when Joseph goes to the appointed meeting place and his brothers are not there. Joseph spends some time searching the surrounding area but cannot find any trace of his brothers. A stranger finds Joseph wandering in the fields and asks him, “What are you looking for?” Joseph replies, “I am looking for my brothers.” The unnamed stranger then tells Joseph that he overheard the brothers discussing taking the flocks to Dotan. Joseph goes off to Dotan, to find his brothers and, we know, to meet his destiny.

Who is this stranger who meets Joseph in the field and sends him off to his brothers, to be sold into slavery and, eventually to be appointed to the second most powerful position in Egypt? Without this stranger, Joseph would go home, and say to his father, “Sorry dad, I looked for them but they were nowhere to be found.” And then Joseph would go and play with his baby brother. There would be no pit, no coat stained with blood, no slavery, no dreams and no Passover.

Later Rabbis, would look at this story and the stranger in the field, and realize, that this man must have been an angel, sent by God to nudge Joseph in the right direction so that the great plan of God would be fulfilled. After all, the Angels who visit Abraham were called “men” in the Torah. This “man” too must be on a divine mission to make sure that all of God’s plans were fulfilled.

Joseph himself says as much when he confronts his brothers in Egypt saying, “Now do not be distressed or reproach yourselves because you sold me here; it was to save life that God sent me ahead of you.” It was not you, my brothers who sent me to Egypt, it was God who sent me here to save Egypt and my family from the ravages of the famine. We plan, God laughs, and in the end, one way or another, we fulfill our part of God’s plan.

There is only one problem. If all of life is shaped by destiny, where does the element of Free Will come from? If my whole life is planed out by God, why then am I responsible for my actions? God determines if I will end up a leader or if I will end up in jail and nothing I can do will stop it. It is my destiny to be all that I am today.

Judaism, if anything, insists that we are all responsible for our actions. Our life is not predetermined. We get to choose what kind of a person we will be. If we are good, then we get the rewards that come from righteous living. If we are bad, we must suffer the consequences of our actions. But here too, it seems there is a bit of destiny. If we do evil deeds, we will eventually have to pay the price of those deeds. Even if I want to change, the consequences of my previous actions have already been set into motion.

It always amazes me that politicians and athletes seem to think that they can do whatever they want and the consequences of their actions will never catch up with them. They can take bribes, gamble on their own games, cheat on their spouse, spread rumors and lies about their opponents and they believe that nobody will ever catch on to what they are doing. In fact, all those around them are well aware of these illicit actions and it is only a matter of time until the entire web of lies comes crashing down. Nobody is really “too big to fail” and we are all just a decision away from the terrible consequences that come from this kind of foolish pride.

Is it really destiny that gets Joseph sold into slavery? Or is it his own prideful and boastful actions that insure his future will be as a slave in Egypt? Isaac was more loved than Ishmael and Ishmael got to the point where his playing with his younger brother became a problem, and Ishmael and his mother had to be sent away. Jacob and Esau have such a rivalry with their parents that it finally erupted into an almost murderous rage that forced Jacob to leave home to avoid the wrath of his brother. Joseph is only the latest in a long line of brothers who could not get along with his siblings to the point where his life was in danger. Given the way Joseph addressed his brothers, one can only imagine how long the brothers must have suffered until they decided that fateful day to attack Joseph.

And yet, it seems that Joseph has already grown up some and is seeing his brothers in a different way. If he had no need for them, why did he spend so much time searching for them? Why does he respond to the question of the stranger “I am looking for my brothers.”?

Perhaps this signals a change in his attitude towards his brothers. Perhaps, had he been given the chance to speak with them, he would have reconciled with them. But it is too late. The anger explodes before he can even get a word out. He is thrown into the pit and sold into slavery. The rest of the story is history. Maybe, if things were different, the story would have ended up the same. Perhaps the stranger in the field was a slave trader, who was ready to kidnap Joseph until he mentioned his brothers, and the stranger realized that there could be a lot of trouble if he kidnapped this boy. Maybe, if the stranger had not appeared and Joseph started off for home, the Midianite caravan would have found the young boy far from home and captured him and sold him to the Ishmaelites and Joseph would have ended up in Egypt anyway. Maybe he didn’t have to be a slave in Potifer’s household, perhaps Mrs. Potifer would have seen him in the market and made a pass at him, incurring the wrath of this officer in Egypt and he would have ended up in jail anyway. It is hard to know if there is only one path to a destiny.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter. The story of Joseph has the same ending; the saving of life, the migration of Jacob and family to Egypt, the slavery, Moses and the great redemption. Jacob and Joseph die at peace with the world, never knowing the even larger destiny that they were fulfilling.

We too cannot comprehend the mysterious circles that life has us travel. Each life is like a jigsaw puzzle that has to be assembled to see the full picture. Each day we have to give our best to this life. We need to make good choices, make good friends and extend our hand to those in need. Where it will all lead is a great mystery and we only know that by living a good life, we can, at least, enjoy the rewards of righteous living. The late songwriter Dan Fogelberg wrote these lyric in his song, “Part of the Plan”:

Love when you can
Cry when you have to...
Be who you must
That's a part of the plan
Await your arrival
With simple survival
And one day we'll all understand...(2X)

Today, we can only give the best that is in our hearts and souls. Who knows where tomorrow will take us. So we plan for our future and try hard to avoid the pitfalls of life. And yet, we face our future with confidence that everything, in the end will work out. That is our hope and that is our prayer, that is the foundation of our faith. But in the background of our mind, we remember, Man Plans and God Laughs.

We pray that our plans and God’s plans should always be as one and that we be blessed with faith, enough to help us get by when our plans diverge. As we say…

Amen and Shabbat Shalom

Sunday, December 6, 2009

I’m Gonna Wait ‘till the Midnight Hour

Parshat Vayishlach


Shabbat Shalom

Last week, when Jacob left home, unsure what the future would bring, he had a restless night and dreamed of a ladder, a staircase to heaven, with Angels going up and down and he dreamed of a promise that God would be with him, watching over him and protecting him, from whatever the future might bring. It was that promise that propelled Jacob for the 21 years that he was exiled from his home. It helped him marry, raise up a family and amass a large fortune in sheep and goats. He has prospered at every turn and even his deceitful uncle Lavan, could not prevent Jacob’s success.

This week we find Jacob in a very different position. He is no longer alone and destitute. He has a large family and much wealth. He is coming home from exile. In fact, the very next day he will enter, for the first time in over two decades, the land promised to his grandfather Abraham, to his father Isaac and through the blessing of his father, the land that was divinely promised to Jacob. He should be happy. He should be feeling how good it is to be home. He should be anticipating seeing all the old familiar places.

He is not happy at all. The biggest stain in his life, the way he treated his brother, stands before him. Esau knows Jacob is returning. Esau is coming to see his brother after 21 years. Esau once promised to kill his brother on sight. Esau is traveling with 400 armed men. Jacob is terrified. He has no one to blame for this predicament but himself. He has grown so much, matured, become responsible; he has given up his deceptive ways. Unlike the way he left home, he is no longer alone. Will Esau slaughter Jacob’s family, his wives and sons? Will he steal all his flocks and herds? Once again, there will be no sleep for Jacob this night.

There will be no stairway to heaven; there will be no dream of angels. Tomorrow he will have to fight his stronger older brother. Clearly one of them will die. He divides his camp to save his family. He prays to God to deliver him from his brother’s hand. Jacob sends extravagant gifts to placate Esau. Is it enough? How can he know for sure?

So Jacob wrestles with an angel; a mysterious being that catches Jacob when he is alone in the night. It is a hard fought contest but Jacob prevails. He pins his opponent to the ground. The angel touches Jacob’s hip and the entire leg is wrenched from its socket. Jacob is in excruciating pain but hangs on. Desperate to be gone before the sun rises, the angel begs to be let go. And Jacob only lets him go after he gets a blessing from the angel and a new name. No longer “Jacob/the trickster”; he is now Israel, the man of God.

I think we clearly understand the emotions of Jacob that night so long ago. But what are we to learn from his struggle that night? What lesson is there for us in this wrestling match at midnight? I think that there are three lessons that we need to see in this story. They are the three lessons that Jacob limps away with in the morning light.

Our first lesson is that faith always comes with a struggle. Life is never easy. Motivational speaker, Brian Tracy tells a story about when he was first starting out in business. He traces his success at his first real job to the fact that he was constantly asking his boss to give him harder and harder tasks to perform. Each time he was successful in solving the problem, he came back to his boss and asked for a more difficult assignment. Eventually he was assigned to complete a rather complicated real estate transaction. He went to close the sale, but then discovered that the seller had failed to disclose important information. The land being sold had no access to water. None at all. Brian Tracy refused to close the sale and went back to his boss and returned the check to the company. From that moment on, he began to advance up the corporate ladder. It was the struggle to do the impossible that made Brian Tracy a success.

We think of problems as things that hold us back. For Jacob, he could not flee his past, he could only see the trouble that would come with the dawn. But his sojourn with Lavan had not only made him smarter and wiser, but he was physically stronger and more agile than he was when he only stayed home with his mother. The years in the fields, protecting the flocks from lions and wolves were not wasted years; they had made him a formidable match for his brother. The wrestling match proved it. He was stronger than he realized. Jacob was no longer the momma’s boy he once was so long ago. He is now a grown man, mature in body and mind. His reasons to fear his brother are out of date, a remnant of a different time in his life. He can face the dawn with confidence because Jacob is no longer the scrawny younger brother of Esau

Our second lesson is that we should not cry over what we have lost. If we have become wounded in our struggles in life, these wounds will not prevent us from rising again. Mitch Alboom, is his book, “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” tells about how the main character, Eddie, was wounded in Vietnam escaping with some fellow prisoners from a prison camp. His wounded leg prevents him from going back to school, from getting a good job and the pain makes him miserable. After Eddie dies and on his way to heaven, Eddie meets his old commanding officer who tells him that Eddie was not wounded by the enemy, but that he was shot by the officer himself. If they would have delayed any longer, the escapees would have certainly all been captured and killed. Eddie had become distracted and unwilling to leave until he was sure there were no civilian casualties. The commander shot Eddie in the leg, put him on the truck and, with the other escapees, they fled the camp.

At the gate of the camp, however, their truck could not get past the closed gate. The officer goes to open it, steps on a landmine and dies. The officer gave his life so that Eddie and the others could escape. All these years Eddie was bitter over his wound never realizing that his commander gave his life so that they all could be saved. In spite of his wound, Eddie had fallen in love, raised a family and earned an honest living. All this had become possible because Eddie’s commander gave his life. We should not be bitter over the way we are wounded by life, but we should walk on thankful for the many blessings in our life. Jacob limps away from his struggle in the night, but he carries a new name, and we never hear another word about Jacob’s broken hip.

Finally, we learn from Jacob that we should never fear the dawn. Many times people come to see me weighed down by a mountain of problems that seem insurmountable. They just don’t see how they can ever move on. How can they climb the mountain alone? How can they move on in life when they are stuck in the dark, unable to get to the light beyond? They feel defeated and abandoned; alone and afraid. Every escape has been closed to them. The only thing to do is give up.

I often can’t solve their problem, but I do tell them that 1. They are not alone. There are friends who can help and God who is always present in their lives. And I tell them 2. That what looks like a mountain of trouble today, will, when they look back on it, see that it was an optical illusion. It was not a mountain of trouble; it was only a speed bump in life. If we face our troubles, like Jacob did, we find that things are almost never as bad as we think they are. Esau came with 400 armed men. Why? I just don’t know. When the two brothers meet, Esau is forgiving and kind. The fights of the past were long ago forgotten. It doesn’t matter anymore. Both brothers are successful and blessed. There no longer is any reason for them to be angry with each other. They go their own way in peace and will see each other again when the gather to bury their father in the family plot.

These three lessons: that the struggle in life is not a curse but a blessing; that we should not mourn what we have lost but be thankful for what we have; and that no matter how dark the night, the dawn always arrives and things turn out never to be as bad as we fear; are lessons we can take away from the story of our patriarch Jacob. I ask you all to reflect on your life history. How many times can we see how true these three lessons have been in the course of our lives?

Faith, Gratitude and Hope are the three lessons we learn from the story of Jacob’s life. They need to be the foundation of our lives as well. Where the winds of life will take us, only God knows. But how we handle our problems along the way, we have this story to help us through the dark stormy nights. We should not fear the darkness, but wait with faith, gratitude and hope for the dawn that will always come.

May these three blessings be the foundation of our life, may they be as important to us as they were to our patriarch Jacob. And may we emerge from our struggles in the night, stronger at the dawn of each new day.

Amen and Shabbat Shalom