"Two nations are in your womb"

Last night, I went to bed with the mixed election results fresh in my mind. This morning, I woke up thinking about a powerful image that appears at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Toledot. In last week's reading, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a wife for Isaac, and he had selected Rebecca based on her incredible generosity and compassion (as our Moadon students have learned, she offered water not only to him but also to his camels!). This week, we meet Rebecca again, now pregnant and uncomfortable. She seeks divine intervention, and is told that two nations are struggling in her womb. In the pshat (the simple, plain meaning), this means that she is pregnant with a set of twins. On the level of drash (deeper interpretation), these twins, Jacob and Esau, represent two very different modalities of being, and it is these that are struggling within her.

On this day after election day, I want to start by thanking the MANY Kavana volunteers who have engaged in voter registration, get-out-the-vote, and phone banking over the past couple of months. These efforts -- spearheaded by Rabbi Josh Weisman and a very passionate and talented group of Kavana partners, and powered by dozens and dozens of volunteers, including teens from our High School program -- have been thoughtful, thorough, and largely effective.  As a 501c(3), Kavana is not permitted to campaign on behalf of a party or specific candidates; however, we absolutely can work from a place of values to advance issues we believe in. This is precisely what we chose to do in this election cycle, making calls in support of two initiatives that address issues of deep concern to our community: I-1631 (clean air) and I-1639 (gun safety). One of these initiatives failed to gain a majority of votes while the other succeeded... leaving us feeling a mixture of disappointment and excitement the morning after. However mixed the election results may feel, though, I am wholehearted in my feeling of pride and appreciation for the Kavana community which strives so purposefully to make our Judaism speak in a language that is relevant to our daily lives and our society.

I am also grateful beyond words for the beautiful expressions of concern and gestures of solidarity that our community has felt in the wake of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. When we gathered this past Friday night for Shabbat dinner and services, a beautiful bouquet of flowers had been left for us by our host community, the Queen Anne Christian Church. These warm gestures strengthen our resolve to be good allies, showing up for other groups in their most vulnerable moments too.

Last night, I went to bed with the mixed election results fresh in my mind. This morning, I woke up thinking about a powerful image that appears at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Toledot. In last week's reading, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a wife for Isaac, and he had selected Rebecca based on her incredible generosity and compassion (as our Moadon students have learned, she offered water not only to him but also to his camels!). This week, we meet Rebecca again, now pregnant and uncomfortable. She seeks divine intervention, and is told that two nations are struggling in her womb. In the pshat (the simple, plain meaning), this means that she is pregnant with a set of twins. On the level of drash (deeper interpretation), these twins, Jacob and Esau, represent two very different modalities of being, and it is these that are struggling within her.  

Waking up more fully, I thought about the fact that there are truly two American nations struggling with each other right now, each trying to be born into the world before the other. One is a nation that trades in the currency of fear, preying on racism and xenophobia towards selfish aims. The other is a nation that is fierce and idealistic, committed to diversity, generosity, and justice. Which of these "twins" will emerge into the world? It will be up to us -- up to our generation -- to determine the answer to this question.

This metaphoric pregnancy will last a lot longer than nine months... clearly we have years of work ahead of us, and perhaps decades or even lifetimes! But bit by bit, piece by piece, working in solidarity with one another, we will strive to give birth to a nation that is guided by the values in which we so deeply believe.

With hope for a brighter tomorrow, and in solidarity with you and all those who seek to bring this about speedily and in our day,

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum