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Think about the decisions you’ve had to make when you knew both options had challenging outcomes. We’ve all been given choices that leave us trying to decide between the best of the worst options. However, the Torah this week reminds us that our job is to think beyond ourselves, and sometimes the “hard place” for us is the place of freedom for generations to come.
While we magically connect over Zoom and FaceTime, we’ve lost - at least temporarily - the miracles of human connection and of voices coming together in song. At the same time, it’s the “magic” of science that makes us optimistic for the future. In Parshat Vaera this week, magic and miracles are on opposing sides, but let’s envision and create a world in which they, like us, are hand-in-hand once again.
Parshat Shemot is just the first in a long line of narratives about the Israelites (later the Jewish people) in which we will be met with fire, yet not consumed. The call of God from the bush is the reminder to us all that the earth we stand on is holy because we are holy, and the fire of others cannot consume us.
One act of meanness or emotional outburst doesn't have to define us. Vayechi, our Torah portion this week, means “and he lived,” and it's actually in Jacob's death that we're reminded that life is complex and filled with ups and downs. We make poor choices, and we have bad days, but we as humans are the total of all our actions.
While we’re all physically apart from each other, it’s easy to forget that we all have to live with each other in every sense of space. Portlanders share one city. Oregonians share one state. Humankind shares just one planet. Vayigash means “and he drew near,” and the parshah reminds us to draw near to each other and meet each other in the here and now.
Parshat Miketz, which is read around Hanukkah, a time of year when we have more darkness than light, is about reserving for the future. Besides emergency supplies, we should savor and reserve the light of the Hanukkah candles in our memories. Store your moments of light, of gratitude, because you never know when you’ll need to tap into them.
Could I have done more? It’s one of those questions you ask yourself in moments of tragedy. It’s difficult to know which piece of advice, which kind word, which heroic gesture will make a difference, or if any of them will. But in reality each little contribution, no matter how big or small, can make a difference.