I invited our Rabbinic Intern, Jess Kerman, to write a message for this week’s newsletter. Reb David
This past Tuesday evening the American people could have tuned in to watch two very different gatherings; The Democratic Debate in Iowa and Trump’s rally in Milwaukee. The gravity of these gatherings is augmented by the recent disturbing acts carried out in America’s name in the Middle East, the impending impeachment trial, and the first caucus vote in three short weeks.
Many are disturbed by the lack of clarity and misinformation that is being passed around about the actions taken by the Trump administration. Many are comparing the subversion of truth and the inflation of mistruths to the route we took in starting the Iraq war. And many think that the Trump administration is using Iraq to distract his base from the impeachment trial or even worse actions/plans.
I’m reminded of Pharaoh’s actions in this week’s Parsha, Shmot, the beginning of our Exodus narrative. Chapter one tells us that as the Israelite people grow in number. Pharaoh, worried about their growth, says to his people, “Let us deal wisely with them.” Pharaoh is a powerful man who answers to no one, with a large army behind him, yet he doesn’t use force.
Rather, he uses cunning, which has far deeper ramifications and darker consequences. Convincing the Egyptian people to turn on their Israelite neighbors practically overnight, he creates an us-versus-them mentality, and persuades Egyptians to rip families apart, drowning their male babies, and forcing the Israelites into harsh labor without adequate compensation…but the unemployment rate must have been so low!
The Trump administration uses their cunning to distract the people from systemic corruption and has allowed their spokesperson to perpetuate the same us-versus-them mentality. When has the country last felt so fragmented?
On the other hand, during the debate, though each candidate shared their varying opinions and policy stances, I feel like the overwhelming message, with those differences aside, was the need to rally together. Both at home here in America and with our allies abroad.
Exodus 1:8 tells us specifically that this pharaoh does not know Joseph; he has forgotten that Egyptians and Hebrews have relied on uniting together to plan against natural disaster and hunger.
America relies on each other to survive and we are strongest when we are united—something we must remember when we are feeling most fragmented. This means working against that us-versus-them mentality…no matter who is the “us” and who is the “them”. And though it might be hard, when it comes to people we disagree with, we have far more in common than we think; we all want to feel safe, we all want to feel seen and loved, and we are all created b’tzelem Elohim (in the image of the Divine). Jess Kerman, Rabbinic Intern