Parshat Vayetze | Gili Dvash Yeshurun
Following the horrible massacre on Simchat Torah, the same question was asked in conversations online and offline: If God exists, then how can this kind of thing happen? How can horrors such as this exist in a world run by God?
Recently, I have been talking to a close childhood friend who writes a lot about belief and thankfulness. While she believes that we should see the good in our lives and be thankful for that good, even now, I will admit that I am having great difficulty being in that place right now – believing in the good and being thankful. If God really is present, I don’t understand how wars like this can be allowed to happen.
My friend shared with me that after she had experienced great personal grief, she felt that the only way to overcome it was through belief. She came to think of pain and grief as steps in a long journey that she needs to pass through and that she must believe she can overcome.
Our parasha this week starts with great uncertainty. Jacob runs away from his parents’ home after stealing the birthright by cheating his brother, Esau. Jacob is forced to leave his house and his homeland without knowing what awaits him in the future. During his journey, God appears before him and promises Jacob a future. God promises that Jacob will be able to overcome his hardships.
However, Jacob does not accept God’s promise quickly. He does not seem to think that God’s promise will come to pass right away, and so he vows that if he will manage to come back to his homeland, as God promised, only then will he rebuild the city Bet El. His vow is conditional. If God comes through on God’s promise, then Jacob will come through on his own promise of acknowledging that God is his god.
I feel a little bit like Jacob right now. I’m turning to the heavens and requesting from his holiness or God or karma to prove itself. Come and show yourself to me. Come and prove that you are on our side. Send me signals that the good will overcome the evil, the conniving, the conspiracies, and the hardnesses of the heart.
For now, I can’t see it. I cannot see God’s work in this world. But, I can see people. I can see that people are choosing to do good despite the evils of this war. Currently, the evil might be louder than the good, but I know that the goodness of people is what will prevail.
In a reverse image of what happens in the parasha, where Jacob schemes and manipulates in his relationships with his brother Esau and afterwards also with his cousin, we are not answering each other with treachery and not trying to hurt others in the way we were hurt. We are not trying to be right and we are not waiting for any force from above to save us.
After long months of hardship and internal struggles, Israeli society is rallying together. People are volunteering for the army and to support the nation in many different ways. We are not waiting for leadership or God-ship to prove that they are there, that things will be solved, be done, or be managed. Israeli society is greater than that.
We don’t have years to wait, and we won’t first do and then listen. On the contrary, we will do and then do, and then do again until those who are not here have come home and those who still need to rebuild their homes have done so.
Gili Dvash Yeshurun is the Director of Strategic Community Relations