This week's Torah portion
In last week's Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, Isaac goes out for a ride on camelback, and he sees Rebecca, his future wife, off in the distance. Rebecca asks Eliezer the servant who it is that approaches. He tells her it is Isaac, and then Rebecca places a veil upon her beautiful face--as an act of modesty. But the veil has even greater meaning for us.
Judaism calls us to aspire to unity amidst diversity. I don't have to tell you how difficult unity is to achieve in any circumstance, no less the variety and contrast that mark our lives . In fact, just as Judaism is thought to bridge our imperfect world and the perfect world-to-come,
the virtue of integrity or tamim, provides a useful platform for us to steady our efforts toward the shleimut, the wholeness, that unity beckons. In the spirit of this challenge, consider the teaching from Divrei Yirmiyahu and the transformative quality of the veil.
The midrash, which interprets this text in Genesis, looks ahead and links the veils of two women, Rebecca and Tamar, both of whom have birthed twins. (Genesis Rabbah 60:15)
For Rebecca's twins, Jacob and Esau, the veil predicts war between the brothers.
For Tamar's twins, Peretz and Zerach, the veil forecasts the coming of the Messiah, the prince of peace.
So, by extension, the veil connects us to both war and peace, but because the veil prophesies the transition between starkly different realities remains mysterious. According to the Sages, we don't really know when war will end and lasting peace will begin. But one is bound to the other. And, the Sages emphasize that the Holy One must remove the veil from one, so the second one will be revealed.
But as much as I pray that blessings like peace depend on God's chesed (grace), I cannot ignore that the life as I experience it today requires me to act as though peace depends on me. And you. And all of us.
Perhaps the Holy One has already begun to lift the veils, namely by giving us all the capacity to dialogue about war and peace, about reconciliation and love, about healing and understanding about listening to one another and not looking past each other, about living with integrity as we seek unity. Perhaps. But, possessing such a precious gift is not enough. We have work to do. To build a bridge from the world-as-it-is to the world-as-it-could-be. To strengthen partnerships of all sorts to help us lift the veil that obscures our path to collective wholeness. And, to initiate shared human action toward what we call in the Jewish community--tikkun olam, healing the world.
I look forward to celebrating my investiture with you this Shabbat and consecrating our working covenant. In the meantime, make it a day of blessing and be a force for good.
Rabbi Craig Marantz