This column will appear as the season of holidays draws to a close and the October election date looms in Canada. It also appears the week we begin our Torah readings again, literally from the beginning, with Bereshit.
Is there a connection? Let’s see.
We have just spent weeks examining our own lives, trying to make amends to those we have injured, pledging to be better this coming year than we were last year, and celebrating the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.
Now we will again begin the study of our Foundation Text. In Bereshit (one version of the creation of mankind), God forms man from the earth’s dust and breathes “nishmat chaim” into God’s creation. Thus, the new creature becomes “a living soul.”
Just a living soul, not an Israelite or Jewish one.
This week I will chant the Haftorah for Bereshit. I learn that we, the people of Israel, are to be a “light to the nations,” and one of our principle duties is “to rescue prisoners from confinement… those who sit in darkness.”
I think I have found a connection among these three things: beginnings, endings (of the holidays) and elections.
Beginnings. We have been challenged these past weeks by pictures of desperate people trying to escape war and devastation in their home countries. They seek a beginning. Thousands have died for this hope, while others continue to push forward. We should not be surprised that, finally, the misrule and murder in those countries have caused the bravest of their people to try for something better – as did the Jews of Canada whose families came from similarly war-torn, economically ravished countries before and after World War II.
What beginnings they faced, what challenges, in a Canada not friendly to their plight. Neither prewar immigrants nor survivors found a Canada welcoming them. Just try substituting “Jew” for this current wave of refugees (mostly Muslim) and you will find a familiar refrain. Ironically, Germany, once the author of our destruction, has come forward with help.
Elections. We have a chance to tell the next government how we feel about Canada’s responsibilities to welcome another population, which, if the past is any standard, will greatly benefit our country. When Jews tried to enter Canada, whether before the war, after the war, or from Hungary in 1956, they were often assumed to be “unassimilable.”
Jews were too poor, or too rich, or too dirty, or not-quite-white, or communists (shudder). Face it, just not Christian.
Let’s recall that both stories of creation never identify the nationality or religion of the first people. And the accompanying Haftorah delegates, no, it commands us, to rescue prisoners from confinement, those who dwell in darkness. Our reluctance to demand that our government, whoever it will be, should move expeditiously to rescue more than a few, shows us to have assimilated the worst aspects of Canada, not led with our own best ones.
Endings. The holidays are over, and we should take leave of them with a sigh.
But otherwise, who knows the endings? I am not a strong believer in inevitable endings such as “this will end in tears.” Maybe it will end in rejoicings, like the reapers in the psalm.
I will hope for some things to end. I will hope that (see above, for my opinion on receiving immigrants from the Middle East) when those who were taught to hate us learn about Canada and about our own community, they will learn to not hate or fear us. They will see us as sharing their hopes and dreams for a good ending to their
They certainly will not un-learn their hatred and fear in squalid refugee camps where they are prey to ISIS recruiters or propaganda blaming their suffering on Israel/Jews. Surely we could try to make their ending one of joy.