Thursday, November 06, 2008


RE:VERB/weekly torah takeaway by Amichai Lau-Lavie

Join me for a year long Jerusalem Journey, action by action, verb by verb. Each week I will pluck a verb from the Torah portion and set it reverberating both with its context and with my own. Let’s make this a conversation, and talk our walk.


November 5, 2008
THREE/Lech Lech/LOOK UP


When was the last time I laughed like this? Belly deep, open mouth, a great relief, cheering wildly, clapping, very very happy? When was the last time I cried like this, in public, not caring that I’m surrounded by strangers, so deeply moved…? It felt like reaching a mountain top, after a long climb, looking up and out to all directions –and seeing a vast horizon of hopes.
Nov. 5, 6am at a CafĂ© in Jerusalem’s German Colony, with a giant screen projecting scenes from Washington DC, Chicago, the Streets of America – and here in Jerusalem – Israelis, Americans, foreigners from different countries – many journalists and media folks with video cameras and recording devices - congratulations, raucous clapping when President Elect Obama and his family fill the screen, plates of cakes, fresh coffee, smiles, tears.
8am, at the King David Hotel, the American ambassador held an “election breakfast” – I got myself invited. Red, white and blue balloons filled the room, TV monitors reported the victory’s details, and posters for both delegates still hung in the room as heated conversations spilled over to the sidewalk and elegant terrace.
Now what? Is this good for the Jews? Is he good for Israel?? ‘If he’s good for America - he’ll be great for Israel’ I told a local reporter, dour and not at all pleased. ‘You have to look at the big picture – this change is a vote of confidence in democracy – the rest is almost irrelevant.’
Taking a deep breath and looking at the big picture is going to be the next step for many – the winners, the losers, the rest of us. Taking the time to climb to the summit and carefully scan the horizon for clues and inspiration is the order of the day – and it is echoed in this week’s Torah text – introducing Abraham, the first among many world leaders to emerge in the Bible.
Chapter 13 in Genesis describes the parting of ways between Abram – a leader in the making, and Lot – his nephew and co-travelelr. They divide the territory and agree to honor each other’s separate path. When that is done, Abram (his name will change later) is invited up for a Birdseye view of his future life: ‘God said to Abram, after Lot parted from him: 'Look up now, lift your eyes, and see, from where you are now, to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west.’ (Genesis 13:14)
Look up, Abram is told. Transcend the divisions and the harsh reality of separations to see the 360 degree view of what lies ahead. He is shown a vision of potential and promised a great future – his children will be a blessing unto all families of the earth.

I met Ibrahim – one of Abraham’s descendents, two days ago – a Palestinian from Ramallah who was trying to harvest his olives, under Israeli military guard and under the watchful eye of near by Jewish settlers who accused him of stealing their rightful land. That same night I attended the wedding of my cousin Sarah – in a settlement only 30 minutes away from Ibrahim’s village. Both the bitter harvest of olives and the joyous wedding took place on November 4th – the anniversary of Yitzchak Rabin’s assassination thirteen years ago. Somehow, all of us, children of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar and Yishamel -all over the world, so rarely get to climb the mountain to see the full view, each other’s story, and how our stories mesh and compliment each other – and how we can become each others’ blessing and gift – as our ancestor Abram was promised.
I pray today that we look up, and that our leaders, including the newly elected, help us climb up the mountain, one step at a time, and transcend the divisions that prevent us from the peace, change and hope we all yearn for. Was it the nuns who advise Maria in ‘The Sound of Music’ –‘Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

1 comment:

  1. Julie NewmanNovember 07, 2008

    I looked up Gen13:14 in my thumbed-through, annotated JPS student TaNaKh and found I had previously noted this passage with an asterisk and the note: "mindfulness". Things happen, major and seemingly minor events. All are an invitation to raise our eyes, look out from where we are and try to figure out the truth and possibility of that moment.
    My dear friend, a rabbi from Pittsburgh, will be leaving Saturday night for Israel on a trip with Rabbis for Human Rights. They will be there trying to experience the truth of life for people just like Ibrahim in Ramallah and your cousin Sarah.

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