This weekend Am Kolel commemorates the strong connection between Judaism and human rights. Many congregations have designated this Shabbat as Human Rights Shabbat as a way of reminding ourselves of the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights adopted December 10, 1948, by the vast majority of nations of the world.
This Sunday evening, we invite you to our annual Hanukah Human Rights Coffeehouse and Concert at Temple Shalom. We recall the Maccabean struggle for human rights and recommit ourselves to fight for human rights for ourselves and for other peoples in our own times.
In this week’s Parsha we find Jacob and his family in Canaan being approached by Esau and 400 warriors. Jacob, fearing for a battle that could result in death, prays to God, divides his camp so that some may escape, and sends gifts to soften his brother Esau. He then crosses the Yabok River, and there, alone, wrestles with a “man.” Some say this is an angel of God, others say an apparition of Esau. It sounds to me he is wrestling with his own inner demons. The next morning, Jacob and Esau are reunited in an emotional and reconciliatory embrace.
What can we learn from this story? Our treatment of others often has to do with our own inner demons, fear and insecurities. Allowing ourselves to wrestle within - the word Yisrael meaning “wrestling with God” is a necessary step in changing our relations with others for healing and reconciliation. I can imagine that Esau was able to embrace Jacob because he had changed, too. If only our leaders can confront their own demons.
Let us be hopeful. Let us “be hope.” Wherever we can engage in ways to repair the brokenness in the world we are living out our partnership with the Holy One of Being.
In hopeful solidarity, Reb David