October 30, 2020
“If you go left, I will go right; or if you go right, I will go left.”
This might be a timely quote between two best friends disenfranchised with our current election process, but this verse is actually from this week’s Torah portion (Genesis 13:9), Lech Lecha, where Abram offers his nephew Lot the option to head in one direction and he, in turn, will head in the other.
What is strange in this story is that this uncle-nephew separation is not due to a lack of resources. It is just the opposite. It is because of their material abundance and great wealth that the two branches of the family, Abram and Lot, can no longer travel together. They have acquired such great affluence and prosperity that the land can no longer sustain their herds if they travel together – they must break up their family. As verse 13:6 reads, “And the land did not bear them to dwell together, for their possessions were many, and they could not dwell together.”
Our sages speak of the disparity between the two families, the differences in leadership styles, personality, respect for their belongings, their staff, and even their loved ones. But it is not until the land cannot sustain them that they decide to go their separate ways.
How is it that we, as a family, are willing to burden our differences, to set aside our disagreements, and even look the other way, or dismiss our eccentricities until it starts to affect our resources and material gains? Ironically, in only a few chapters from now, Abram argues in one of the most famous human-deific arguments of the bible to save the city in which Lot dwells because that’s what family does, they take care of each other no matter how much they might disagree or behave differently.
This coming week we will be brought to a conclusion one of the most polarizing presidential election campaigns of recent history. This does not mean we will quickly know who wins the election, nor do we have any idea of how our nation, or even the world, will respond to the results. What we do know is that we must respect the process, and we must rise above our disagreements, differing ideologies, alternate personal perspectives, and visceral emotional reactions. We MUST come together and take care of each other no matter what.
This week, the Jewish Federation received an email from a member of the community. I include it below because there is no way to paraphrase this personal and passionate plea for help. I have removed all identifying information, but have left the text exactly as it was received:
“My name is —– and I’m Jewish and reaching out to you. I need help with housing and food. I just became homeless with my son, too. My phone number is —–. I’m also looking for a job. I have many years of experience with administrative duties. Thank you for your consideration.”
Upon receiving this email, our staff immediately shared the information with Jewish Family Service who then also immediately reached out to this family to assist them in their time of crisis. Unfortunately, this is only one example of too many similar experiences taking place locally, nationally, and across the world right now.
So yes, we have a hotly contested election that will conclude this week. Please, please, please –there is too much at risk to dwell on the outcome no matter who you side with. We MUST come together and help heal this country by taking care of those who need us.
Our ancestors time and time again argued with their loved ones and disagreed to the extremes on too many issues to list, but always understood that when the family was in need, they never turned their backs. Now is the time for us to put down our differences and come together to take care of our extended San Antonio Jewish community!
The Jewish Federation is: