Our GPS is a GENERATIONAL Positioning System

Dalia Rabin and Rabbi Matt Soffer, Temple Israel of Boston, 12/6/16

I offered these words to welcome Dalia Rabin, daughter of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, to Temple Israel of Boston on December 5, 2016.

We’re reading Parashat Vayeitzei, the famous episode involving Jacob in the Wilderness, dreaming of a celestial ladder. There’s a moment when Jacob puts a stone under his head, and amidst this darkness, with his body supported by the earth, he has his Revelation.

Now we might expect at this point, given how lost and bewildered Jacob felt, that in this Revelation God would tell him where he is.

Instead, God says, “I am the God of your fathers,” your ancestors… God answers the implicit question “WHERE AM I” not with geographic coordinates but with generational coordinates. In other words, God tells Jacob where he is by saying: I’m the same God who blessed your parents and grandparents. That is where you are.

We know where we are, by knowing who we are; we know who we are by knowing who in our past lived for the sake of us and our children; who lived, as Sir Rabbi Jonathan Sacks says, “in the future tense.”

Rashi tells us that in this famous biblical scene, when Jacob lies on the ground, God rolls up the whole Land of Israel and puts it under our father Jacob to remind him that his descendants will be able to actualize the Promise of a peaceful Israel.

We, too, live in an age of profound disorientation, dominated by demagoguery, and we are asking ourselves “where are we”? This conversation, having Dalia Rabin with us to help elucidate the legacy of her father Yitzhak Rabin (z”l), helps remind us where we are. The answer to that is not just inside a synagogue, but within a sacred story, an unfolding narrative, which, we hope and pray with all our heart, will one day become fulfilled.

Ken Y’hi Ratzon — So may it be God’s will (and ours).

About the Author
Matthew Soffer is the Senior Associate Rabbi at Temple Israel of Boston, where he leads the social justice efforts, practicing congregation-based community organizing with the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO). Matt serves on the Advisory Council of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, the Board of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action (JALSA), the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, and the Rabbinic Council of Hand-in-Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel.
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