Drash on Parashat Vayechi 2023

Drash on Parashat Vayechi     
Rabbi Adi Cohen
Temple Shalom Gold Coast, Queensland

Parashat Vayechi concludes Genesis, the first of the five books.

Following Jacob's blessings and his passing, from now on a new narrative will start: the story of B’nei Israel as a collective, as peoplehood, as a nation. On his deathbed, Jacob blesses his children, one at a time, being brutally honest, sometimes and using words that sound more like a dark prophecy rather than a blessing. It seems that Jacob knew that each and every offshoot of the family will be different and unique, and will struggle with its own flows and their consequences. 

I believe that Jacob’s blessings were directed not only for his individual children, but moreover, they meant to portray the complexity of the Jewish nation to be. Complexed, not perfect, ever striving to do better to be better and to constantly redefine itself.

In his monumental book “Judaism as a Civilisation“ (1934), Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan claimed that Judaism is an “evolving civilisation”, defined by beliefs, culture, language, art, and music, with members participating in an ongoing conversation about what Judaism should be. Rabbi Kaplan, like Jacob, understood the complexity of our peoplehood and translated the challenges into philosophical and practical opportunities. 

Earlier this week, my classmate and Member of the Israeli K’neset, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, was told by a Haredi K’neset Member “shut up you Reform Jew”. The event took place during an official K’nesset meeting. An offensive and dismissing comment, that was ignored by the rest of the participants. It is not a secret that the current Israeli Government is the most extreme right-wing and the most religious fundamentalist government since Israel was established; a government that is now actively working to legislate laws that will create a complete monopoly over all expects of Jewish life and identity in Israel. These laws will have implications on the relationships with all other Jews in and outside of Israel. 

We are now facing the most challenging times in modern Jewish history, that will determine if we are still one complex peoplehood or are we breaking up again into kingdoms and tribes. If we wish to maintain the vision of a pluralist, complex and evolving Judaism, and to assure that other like-minded Jews in Israel will not be deprived from their freedom of faith and belief, now is the time, more than ever, to act and support the Israeli Movement for Reform Judaism, financially, morally and spiritually. Even a short supportive email to a congregational rabbi in Israel can be a significant support. 

Shabbat shalom.

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