The Haftarah for Vayeitzei comes from the Prophet Hosea, who begins by quoting a story directly from our parashah: "Then Jacob had to flee to the land of Aram; there Israel served for a wife, for a wife he had to guard [sheep]." (Hosea, 12:13)
I look around at society today, and I see a lot of people reluctant to talk about our dark history. Here in the United States, we are plagued by a history of racism,
xenophobia, and trampling on (or attempting to extinguish) the narratives of another. But the REAL damage comes from our refusal to LOOK at this history. We keep repeating the same errors and perpetuating the pain, because we sometimes think it would be better to just "let it go" or "get over it already." History doesn't work like that. When we try to forget it, it continues to punish us; like a nightmare that won't go away. I have always felt that one of Judaism's strongest attributes is our relationship with history. We never forget, but we also don't obsess over history as being the ONLY thing that matters. We carry our stories with us everywhere, BUT we also use them, actively, to inform our world and our actions TODAY!
Hosea retells the story of Jacob to remind his audience that God is still with them. Right afterwards, however, he uncomfortably chastises his contemporaries for straying into idolatrous practices. And when, hundreds of years later, Hosea's writings were read as ancient history, those readers knew
that Hosea's community was destroyed by the Assyrians. And they tried to learn from the stories of Jacob AND of Hosea. Today, we benefit from several additional generations, and several more layers of narrative. Despite all these cautionary tales, we sometimes still ignore our history. And we do so at our own peril. We have much to be grateful for, and we should celebrate with family, turkey, and football. At the same time, let us also speak of the Native Americans who were here before the pilgrims. Let us pledge to combat racism and cultural erasure, and work diligently to live WITH our history, in all its forms and iterations. Then, perhaps, real healing can begin, and we will have SO much more to be thankful for in years ahead.
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