Eliyahu Peretz

Emerging Identities 5784 style

Jewish Pride by Fernando Tarica
Jewish Pride by Fernando Tarica

New emerging identities have been blossoming these last 64 days, since that tragic Simchat Torah. These new identifications have not been just maturing, but sadly being publicly exposed. We are talking about both emerging and divergent identities that vex humanity while the spokespersons of hate humble the democratic values upon which our coexistence has been based since the end of the Second World War. We have also witnessed the way that the humanistic principles that guide our ethics have been trampled for two months and seven days, and this is simply painful. These are difficult times for all Jews, in the same way they should be for the rest of mankind as we keep humanity as a common value.

It looks as if this situation that we are describing here started with brief statements which were even seen, at the very beginning, as trivial as dust. Those supposedly innocent affirmations passed below the radar and then, as quickly as lashon hara does, became sharpened blades that stab human hearts, words that overpowered many of our deeper beliefs and confidence in some of our fellow humans. I am not interested in reproducing, neither here nor anywhere else, the false affirmations and the hints that we all hear and that we have unhappily known. I am not looking to argue with anyone at all. I prefer to dig a hole and to throw all those words and affirmations into the deep, into the pit of oblivion. After that, and only after that, maybe I will be able to trust in human kindness again.

Last week and the following three Shabbatot, we have been and we will be reading about Joseph’s life. He was clearly rejected by his siblings, he was even dismissed by them, and he was cruelly sold into slavery. Joseph’s misery did not end there; during his captivity, Potifar´s wife, who was the lady of the house, took her revenge on Joseph for his rejection to her advances, and he found himself again falling into a deep hole, into jail. And this is not the end, after a while in prison he met someone that promised to help him but, as you can imagine, this didn’t turn out well. After a long and hard journey Joseph was almost free as a result of his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, the well known Chalomot Pharaoh that involved cows and wheat spikes. But note that even after he became the Mishneh laMelech, the second most powerful person in Egypt, even then he was not in a position to meet up with his family and his loved ones. It took a while until drought and famine brought his relatives to Joseph’s adoptive land. This is how calamities can become a new opportunity to reunite, to forgive and to start building a solid and genuine relationship.

As happens commonly in our days, Joseph’s story started with malicious whisperings about the youngest son of Yaakov. Those almost trivial statements became actions that turned into serious consequences and transformed small affirmations into much more than simple words. The consequences for Joseph were tragic, probably because he did not build loving effective connections with others. Joseph was an isolated island before he was sold to the slave drivers, but during his journey the brave young man learned to surround himself with people that he was able to love and care about. He paid a very high price, and under his teachings we became a family, a tribe, a people and finally a nation. That is the main reason why we need to stay together as a people, and to build bridges with the people that walk with us on the path of humanistic values and ethics, Jewish and non-Jewish. Just a small caveat at this point: we can not stay naive because many of our new furious supporters do it based on hatred and not as a result of their love for us. We have to remember Achashverosh: all he did was not for the love of Mordechay but out of the hate of Haman.

New emerging identities have been blossoming in the last sixty-four days, since the tragic morning of Simchat Torah in 5784. Those are new emerging identities or maybe not… because as you all know, history sometimes is repeated. We cannot change what happened, but it is in our power to evaluate our alliances and to rebuild the ties that keep our people together as a whole against any differences. We can do so and continuously develop strong and truly inclusive Jewish identities. The time has come and as we light the candles in our Hanukiah tonight we will be able to delight ourselves in their light, we must do it together, even if we need to deal with ideological or physical distances. Let ‘s just do it!

About the Author
Eliyahu Peretz was the rabbi of Kehilat Sinai in Tel Aviv between 2014-2019. Currently he serves the Jewish community in Argentina, and he is a lecturer at the Institute of Rabbinical Studies (IIFRR) in Buenos Aires.
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