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Sermon: Parshat Vayigash, 12/10/21

12/14/2021 10:20:50 AM


Rabbi Charlie

Shabbat Shalom!

People will ask about glasses being half full or half empty when it comes to optimism and pessimism. So what do we do – we turn the glass over spilling out whatever is inside by pointing out that for Jewish optimists, things could always be worse. We are kvetchers and can find something wrong with anything. And when it comes to Israel, oh Israel, well that really takes the cake…

It’s like in our Torah portion, nothing can be easy. No matter how good it seems, we know that something is going to happen. We start out on a high note. Judah proves to Joseph that he has matured and there’s a great moment of reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers. They return to Canaan where Jacob aka Israel learns that his son, Joseph, is actually alive. This is amazing! So he travels down to Egypt to see him.

On the journey, God calls to Israel. God specifically tells him not to worry about the destination. God explains that his family will become a great nation in Egypt. For some reason, even though God told Abraham, God fails to mention to Jacob that his great nation of a family will be enslaved for hundreds of years. That’s right, nothing to worry about here…

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on the good. Today, Israel the country is deepening connections with more countries in the Middle East and it’s even exploring renewed ties with countries like Turkey. Israel just led a ten-country simulation of a major cyber attack on world markets to help boost international cooperation. Israel is working with Saudi Arabia and other countries to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Israel is helping the world battle COVID. About one hundred and sixty organizations in Israel are working on peace-making between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel does a lot of good.

And yet it always seems like Israel is seen in a negative light. It is true that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians often does more harm than good – both to the Palestinians themselves and to the Israeli soldiers who have to carry out their orders. Israeli citizens who are not Jewish are not treated fairly. And neither are Reform and Conservative Jews. There are lots of issues in Israel – there’s a reason why most Israelis are not happy with the way things are going.

And that’s just Israel the country… Israel the people, all of us, well… We know that some people just don’t like us. Antisemitic attacks over the past couple weeks include a terrorist attack in Jerusalem, a hateful attack on a Hanukkah party bus in London, and multiple cases of vandalism worldwide. We know that Antisemitism is out there. However much of our challenge is whether we’re talking about politics or Israel or COVID policies or whether you put sour cream, apple sauce or ketchup on your latkes, we are struggling with all the infighting. And I’m only going to prove my point when I say - Adena – ketchup on latkes is still wrong.

When we have real problems to address – there’s a lot of negativity. And the fact that we look for things to go wrong and the fact that we make anything we don’t like into an issue and the fact that the amount of infighting outweighs the amount of problem solving – it’s not helpful. With so much negativity, we need to do better.

Israel – the Land, the Country, and the People are important. They are a part of us, a part of our family, a part of our identity. And while I can’t tell people not to kvetch – rabbis aren’t supposed to ask congregations to do things that are impossible - I can ask you to get rid of the glass that is half full or half empty and instead, have a pitcher. This is a pitcher that has been shaped by your history – your connection or lack of connection, your spirituality or lack of spirituality, your experience with Israel the land, Israel the country, and Israel the People. Your experience gives your pitcher form and color and design.

You have and continue to fill that pitcher with your Jewish experience – whether you are Jewish or not. Your contributions to your Jewish family, your Jewish learning, your Jewish spirituality, your Jewish congregation, your Jewish People. Whatever you fill it with is what you will offer to Israel, Judaism, this part of who you are – and grows into… something.

If you fill it with nothing, we feel it. If you fill it only with kvetches, we feel it. If you fill it with time and attention and commitment, we feel it. All aspects of Israel is important – so are your contributions. To combat the negativity, we need you and we need all of us to fill our pitcher well. We need some positive growth and that takes all of us.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sun, July 3 2022 4 Tammuz 5782