I've finally begun to understand the emotional rhythm of the annual cycle of holidays and Torah readings. (Prior to becoming involved at my synagogue, the only pattern I noticed from year to year was a recurrence of excellent meals at Rosh Hashonah.) The Yamim Nora'im cycle from hope to despair to joy, a high note that continues as we read about the creation of the universe. It dips when we get to the Flood, God's own emotional rollercoaster, but redemption remains just a parasha or two away. Humankind would never get anythying done, however, if these mood swings continued. So from Noach's drunkenness onwards (so much for being "blameless in his generation"), the cast of characters settle into lives of steady pettiness, jealousy, vanity, evil, and other usual, unflattering human traits.
I've been thinking about Sarah, in particular. We focus on her bravery and strength, but--even though I know, thanks to the reading I'm doing for this course, that she was acting in accordance with the legal and cultural norms of the time--I really don't like her very much. I can't get over the Hagar business; how can anyone be so mean as to turn away her own son and the selfless, powerless woman who bore him?
She can because we can; she was also human. Last night, as the rabbi spoke of Lekh Lekha and the same ideas about self-inflicted boundaries that I pondered a few days ago, I got a little bored. Yeah, I've heard this before. Stop bugging me; I know what I have to do. I had the same reaction when the Bar Mitzvah boy read an essay about the importance of accepting our flaws and mistakes. Then I thought about how much I always forget, year after year, and need to repeat these lessons. The annual return of Parashat Lekh Lekha is a nudge to pay attention and get out of myself, and remember that I'm no more or less human than those archetypes whose traits, for better or worse, I've inherited.
I love reading the Torah portion for every week, aa. Reading about the frailities and triumphs of our early ancestors makes what I am going through in these modern days seem all so trivial... but each of us are given the chance to go out from our countries, to build our own arks, to set ourselves apart, just as they were asked to do- it's kind of cool...
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