Monthly Archives: January 2017

Talmud teachings about the ACA

 

Yesterday’s reading of the Daf Yomi (daily page of Talmud), was remarkably timely in its discussion about destroying and replacing things. Rav Hisda taught that a Beit Knesset, synagogue, cannot be destroyed until a new one is ready to replace it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems to be the modern day equivalent of this conversation.

The Gemara explains that just ripping down what exists opens the real possibility that irresponsible people will never follow through with the replacement, and the people will be left without a place for prayer. As we watch the government begin steps to dismantle “ObamaCare” through Executive Order and Congressional actions, we must ask, what is there to replace it?

What does Healthcare for our people look like? What is our responsibility to our fellow Americans? This is an important conversation for our nation. Regardless of the flaws both real and perceived in the existing structure, it is grossly irresponsible to destroy the ACA without a clear plan to replace it seamlessly with something clearly articulated before we take a sledgehammer to what we have.

As long as our government is of, by and for the people, there is no king with the authority to decree what shall be. Our elected representatives must be accountable for building not destroying.

This essay is based on the insights of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.

There’s got to be a morning after

I was thrilled to see the level of engagement around the country this past Saturday. The civil rights that so many have fought so hard to achieve are precious and will neither be surrendered or taken away. But preserving, protecting, and expanding our civil rights requires vigilance and hard work that started the day after the protest marches and needs to continue as a daily commitment against those who would threaten these precious rights.

Our Rights should be self-evident but we cannot treat them like an entitlement. For many, our Rights were achieved only after hard work and even bloodshed, and they remain vulnerable. Marching is the beginning of organizing and speaking out is the beginning of developing a political voice. Although the administration is in place for the next four years, the Congress is up in two. The politicians must know that we will support only those who safeguard and champion the rights we hold so dear.

The morning after is when the hard work begins. So after the Women’s March, we must take the next steps. Find your place to make your actions count. 10 Actions in 100 Days is a place to join those already organized to continue the work. Together we can make a difference, preserving and protecting the Rights we hold dear.

www.womensmarch.com/100

 

How do you Reconcile after Estrangement?

 

Vayigash continues unfolding the stories from last week’s parashah Mikeitz between Joseph and his brothers. Joseph, Judah, Reuven are all revealing their struggles. How each remembers what transpired years before tells us much about the individuals and how they will approach meeting each other again: Joseph, It is all meant to be; Judah, I feel guilt and remorse but I have grown from the pain; Reuven, I was right, if only you listened, we would not be here now. Their stories contain rationalizations, denials, anger and other emotional responses to bad experiences that drive people apart.

These memories also demonstrate that whatever the facts, each of us processes and remembers differently. For movie buffs like me, this is summed up for me in the Maurice Chevalier song from the movie Gigi, I Remember it Well:

We met at nine, we met at eight,  I was on time, no, you were late
Ah, yes, I remember it well.
We dined with friends, we dined alone,  
A tenor sang, a baritone
Ah, yes, I remember it well…”

Each of us remembers in our own way. We process and create a memory that becomes the story. Sometimes it aligns with the facts more closely than at other times. I have often recounted events very differently than how my wife remembered it. We all have seen other couples, as in Gigi, do likewise, disagreeing on many points as to things actually occurred. It is hard enough with partners committed to each other. But when there is estrangement, such as with Joseph and his brothers, reconnecting with someone when there are opposing narratives becomes even harder.

These stories often contain a hero and a villain mixed with the things that created the initial rift, ultimately forming the chasm between them and us.  As we move toward reconnecting, we start with a premise that reconnecting is a good thing, serving a greater purpose than whatever caused the rift. So whether we are reconnecting with a long-lost brother, estranged child, forsaken lover, we need to find forgiveness, for either them or ourselves, and acceptance of them and their different story.

We delve into the details later on perhaps, learning the other’s narrative that described the event and the motivations that were present in the moment. We create a rapprochement that can lead to a new phase of an actively engaged relationship with our long-lost other, picking up where we left off so long ago, informed by the past, but now older and wiser.

This, however, may never come to be. Vayigash is filled with many seemingly serendipitous moments that all had to happen in order for Jacob’s family reunite, move beyond the wounds each person carried, and then heal. But even with serendipity, coincidence, or the hand of God guiding the process, it is ultimately up to each of us to reach out to the other with forgiveness in order to move forward together.