Posts Tagged 'Vayetzei'

When We ‘Go Out’: Reflecting on Afghanistan

In Ki Tetzei, this week’s Torah portion, we look at what happens when we go out to war. There we read, ” Ki Tetzei -When you go out to war against your enemies and the Lord your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives.” (Deuteronomy 21:10) Inevitably one things to another and more bad things come to pass. In the Midrash we see:

“When you go out to war [against your enemies, and the Lord your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive].”(Deut. 21:10:) Our masters have taught , “[One] good deed/commandment brings about [another] good deed/commandment, and [one] transgression brings about [another] transgression.” (Avot 4:2) “And when you see among the captives a woman of pretty form [whom you desire to take for a wife. And you shall bring her into your house,] where she shall shave her head and do her nails,”(Deut. 21:11-12:) so that she will not find favor in his eyes…

Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Teitzei 1:1

This midrash explains the flow of the Torah portion. Going to war leads to taking a war captive as a wife. This in turn leads to a man having two wives, one loved more than the other, which leads to having “a defiant and rebellious son.” Just a good deed leads to another good deed a bad deed leads to more bad things happening. Nothing good will come from going to war.

This language of Ki Tetzei – going out got me thinking about the similar language we see at the start of Vayetze, when Yaakov went out. There we read, ” Yaakov left Beer-Sheva, and set out for Haran.” ( Genesis 28:10). On this Rashi opines:

AND YAAKOV WENT OUT—It need have written simply “And Yaakov went to Haran’’; why then does it mention his departure from Beersheba? But it intends to tell us that the departure of a righteous person from his city makes an impression. As long as a righteous man is in his city he is its glory and splendor and beauty; when he leaves it, there depart also its glory, its splendor and its beauty. This, too, is the meaning of (Ruth 1:7) “And she went forth out of the place”, stated in reference to Naomi and Ruth (Genesis Rabbah 68:6).

Rashi on Genesis 28:10

I was thinking about this recently with American’s ‘going out’ of Afghanistan.

US exit from Afghanistan - The Frontier Post

Everyone is quick to criticize Biden for leaving Afghanistan at all or for leaving too quickly. Both are interesting in this context as it paints the United States with a false sense of righteousness. It is as if Kabul like Beer-Sheva is hurting because Yaakov left her.

I was thinking about this when reading a great piece written by my old friend Daniel Silverberg recently in the Atlantic. There he writes:

Biden faced a set of bad options. He ultimately made the difficult but necessary choice to preserve American lives. That decision will have devastating consequences for Afghanistan, and we will learn more in the coming days regarding how the administration might have executed its plans better. But as I saw for myself in 2017, and as many others had also observed, the government we supported never truly controlled the country it governed. Biden did not decide to withdraw so much as he chose to acknowledge a long-festering reality, one accelerated by the previous administration’s withdrawal announcement.

The Atlantic

To be clear there are horrible things happening in Afghanistan that should not be happening. Regardless of why we are in this situation we must do our part to help people currently in pain. And I am not sure anyone really knows why we ‘went out’ for this war in the first place. As see see in our Torah portion, bad deeds lead to more bad deeds. War is horrible and will only lead to more bad things. I am sure in the weeks and months to follow people will explore how this exit was mismanaged. For this Biden’s administration is responsible. But we should not pretend that we are so righteous in being there in the first place. It is hard to place the blame for that on the Biden administration. Many others are responsibility for our ‘going out’ to this war 20 years ago.

Go with God: Yaakov and Trump in Transition

In Torah portion two weeks ago, Yaakov steals the blessing and the birthright from his brother Esav. In the beginning of VaYetzeh, last week’s portion, Yaakov is running to his uncle’s house to evade his brother’s wrath. The portion start off:

Yaakov left Beer-sheba, and set out for Haran. ( Genesis  28:10)

On this language VaYetzeh, left, Rashi writes:

It need have written simply “And Yaakov went to Haran’’; why then does it mention his departure from Beersheba? But it intends to tell us that the departure of a righteous person from his city makes an impression. As long as a righteous man is in his city he is its glory and splendor and beauty; when he leaves it, there depart also its glory, its splendor and its beauty. This, too, is the meaning of  “And she went forth out of the place”(Ruth 1:7), stated in reference to Naomi and Ruth (Genesis Rabbah 68:6).

I was thinking about Yaakov last week in the context of our lingering democratic process. Like the young Yaakov, Trump is trickster who is seeking to evade consequences of his actions.

The differences between the person of Yaakov and Trump are many, but there are two of note. The first is that Yaakov spends this life learning to repair the misdeeds of his youth. Trump’s character flaws cannot be chalked up to the tempestuous ways of youth.

Another difference is how how Trump did in his home town. In Manhattan Trump lost 14.5% to Biden’s 84.5%. Trump also lost his city of Washington,D.C 5.2% to Biden’s 92.6%. It does not seem that Manhattan or D.C. will be missing the glory, splendor, or beauty of Trump when he goes to Mara Lago.

When we think about the message of VaYetzeh we should be thrilled if Trump leaves and there is a transition of power. He is no righteous person, but I still want to offer him a blessing from my Oma for his leaving She always used to say, ” Gehe mit Gott, aber geh! – Go with God, but please do go”.

Burning Ladder: Alicia Keys and Yaakov

We read in Vayetzeh, this week’s Torah portion, Yaakov dreamed a dream about a ladder. There we read:

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! ( Genesis 28:12)

As Yaakov was leaving Israel to go into Diaspora he had this vision. We need to be idealistic and have our head above the limiting details of life, but we always need to have our feet firmly rooted in the ground. As important as any of the ideas we might talk with you about are the actions that we model. While I hope to share with my children my ideas and ideals, I realize that they will have your own. So I hope when they read this years from now they have seen my commitment to a set of values. I am worried for my children. The world in which they are growing up in much harsher than mine. What will become of this world emblazoned  by terror?

With the image of  Yaakov’s dream on my mind  I got to thinking about  Girl on Fire by Alicia Keys.

There she sings:

She got both feet on the ground
And she’s burning it down
Oh, she got her head in the clouds
And she’s not backing down

What does it mean to have Yaakov’s dream in the 21st Century which seems to be burning up around us? What kind foundation can I provide my children to ensure they maintain a dream and moral imagination needed to make the world what it might become?

 

A Note on Israel for Our Children

I am blessed with a full life. I spend all of my time parenting, partnering,working, and learning. Recently I have found that with every spare moment I am trying to follow the news of what is going on in Israel. And if I get a brief moment to reflect I just cry thinking about what is going on in Israel. It is the 21st Century, why must we still fight to exist?

Earlier tonight Adina and I took our children out to join us at a community wide event in support of Israel. We could have left the children with Maria, our Au Pair, and just gone by ourselves. We realized that despite it being past their bedtime it was important for our children to join us. We want them to value Israel in their lives as we do in our lives. It was great to see the room packed with people in support of Israel. But I realize that at the ages of eight, six and three this might be a bit too much to ask for at this time. I remind myself that this is the very reason that I started writing this entire blog in the first place over threes ago. I hope that years from now you ( Yadid , Yishama, and Emunah) look back and read this blog and are able to connect all of the dots of our parenting choices over the years. I can admit that I often daydream about the your future lives. What do I see emerging in each of you, our children, and might that be a clue of what is to come. I am curious which if and of you will choose to live in Israel. There is a big part of me that would love to follow you.

As we read in Vayetzeh, this week’s Torah portion, Yaakov dreamed a dream about a ladder. There we read:

And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! ( Genesis 28:12)

As Yaakov was leaving Israel to go into Diaspora he had this vision. We need to be idealistic and have our head above the limiting details of life, but we always need to have our feet firmly rooted in the ground. As important as any of the ideas we might talk with you about are the actions that we model. While I hope to share with you my ideas and ideals, I realize that you will have your own. So I hope when you read this years from now you have seen our commitment to Israel in our words as well as our actions. On the way to the event tonight Yadid said, ” I was born in New York, I live in White Plains, but Israel is home.” Obviously that is a well rehearsed line in our home, but it is also important that it is not just something we say. It is important that we make sure that our ideals are founded on our actions. For a second there was a hint that Yadid was starting to get the point. Who knows? Maybe he will be reading this blog post from Israel?

Our thoughts, prayers, and actions are for the people of Israel in the land of Israel. May we see a lasting peace as soon as possible for all of our children.


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