Brothers Above All

In Toldot, this past week’s Torah portion, we read  the story of Rivka who after struggling to conceive is blessed with twins. During her turbulent pregnancy she sought out God. There she learned:

Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger. ( Genesis 25:23)

JANUARY 11- DAILY READING THROUGH THE ONE YEAR BIBLE -Genesis 24:52-26:16;  Matthew 8:18-34; Psalm 10:1-15; Proverbs 3:7-8

In explaining “shall be separated from your bowels” Rashi writes:

As soon as they leave your body they will take each a different course — one to his wicked ways, the other to his plain life (Genesis 5:27)

And sure enough soon after the twins are born this happens.  Esav is born first and close at his heel is Yaakov. It is noteworthy that Yaakov’s name comes from holding on to his brother’s foot. Esav the older one is favored by Yitzhak while the younger son Yaakov is Rivka’s favorite. This tension is a throw back to Cain and Abel. While this does not end with one brother killing the other, it is not a model of fraternity. Where is the love between brothers?

What can we learn from this tension for our times? George Lakoff says that political messaging is all about framing. Once your concede to your opponents’ frame for the debate you have lost the debate.

A good example of this is taxes. When Republicans add the word “relief” to the word “tax”, the result is a metaphor: Taxation is an affliction. And the person who takes it away is a hero, and anyone who tries to stop him is a bad guy. This is a frame. And as soon as the Democrats are using “tax relief” they are shooting themselves in the foot.

That is what framing is about. Framing is about getting language that fits your worldview. It is not just language. The ideas are primary and the language carries those ideas, evokes those ideas.

Yaakov will always be living in reference to his brother ( or more specifically his brother’s heel), until he reframes the debate with changing his name. He is not limited to playing second fiddle to his brother when is renamed and reframed as Yisrael, the hero wrestling with God.

From “lock her up”, to “fake-news”, to “Kong Flu”, to questioning the very essence of fair and free elections, we have so much work to do to repair our society after Trump’s reframing of our modern partisan politics. We need to put the good of the country above the good of the party. The most critical reframing is to remember that at the start we are all siblings above all.

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