Tag Archives: relationships

Jethro, Ideal Father-in-Law and a man for our times

Jan_van_Bronchorst_-_Jethro_advising_Moses

Last week we read Parshat Yitro. It is filled with extraordinary things particularly the story of the title character Yitro and his interaction with Moses and the Children of Israel.

Yitro joins up with the people of the Exodus in support of their leader, his son-in-law Moses, if not in support of their journey to the Promised Land. I am taken by Jethro’s selflessness and righteousness.   For Jethro isn’t just any father-in-law, he is a priest of the Midianites. Arguably, his allegiance should be with his people, but Jethro never misunderstands that to mean he should undermine Moses.

It would be easy for Jethro to take advantage of the turmoil in B’nei Israel and steer them towards Midian, immigrants likely ready to offer their experience as slave labor in exchange for food, shelter, and security. Instead, he helps Moses organize a system that brings justice and order to the chaos, strengthening the fledgling institutions under Moses. Jethro remains in the background and not proselytizing, although he was likely a far better communicator than Moses. Finally, once Jethro shared all that he could teach Moses, he departed so that the leadership of Moses would not be challenged if people saw the power behind the power.

Jethro did not abuse his power. Indeed, he deftly manipulated his power into support of Moses. As a Midianite Priest, his worldviews and religion were different from the Children of Israel. However, he was respectful of the “other” and helped them flourish on their particular journey.

We can be different. My beliefs do not require a negation of your beliefs. We can co-exist, cooperate and even consider ourselves connected as part of a larger family. Not only a model father-in-law, Jethro is the model leader for civil pluralistic society for today as well.

The legacy of the Exodus

Crossing the Red Sea
by Yoram Raanan

We are in the midst of that transformational epic Jewish creation myth known as the Exodus. This is the beginning of the discussion of our core identity a God who has freed us from bondage so that we may serve. There is an inherent tension in this idea freedom and service juxtaposed. But also at play is our meaning relative to this Eternal One. When do we actually count? Are we only meaningful in a corporate existence in the arc of history, or do individuals matter?

The narrative begs the question by leading with being remembered after 210 years sojourning in Egypt. Then God remembers and 600thousand with their families are lead out. We cross into the wilderness and begin a two-week trek to the Promised Land that takes 40 years, a deliberate amount of time so that the entire generation that was freed will not survive to reach their goal. What about those poor souls who suffered during 210 years of deteriorating conditions in Egypt? What about those poor souls who would have found satisfaction with enough food to eat and water to drink and would have returned to bondage just for those basic needs? There are many who did not make it along the way. What about them?

For so many of us, living in this new Promised Land came at the expense of untold millions who suffered harsh lives and died ignominious deaths at human hands that practiced hate. How do we remember them properly, with respect and the knowledge that were it not for them, we would not be here. Can we simply say “there but for the grace of God Go I” that we are merely the lucky ones? Aren’t we compelled to practice an active gratitude acknowledging and cherishing those who have come before to make our lives possible and using our blessings and positions to help those who continue to struggle, who have not experienced full redemption? Our tradition suggests that it is our responsibility, not God’s.

When we say goodbye to someone we grieve the loss as we should.   The tradition says Zichrono Livracha- May their memory be a blessing. Our task is to fulfill this aspiration and continue to journey.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year

This Shabbat we read Parsha Vayechi, closing the Book of Genesis. This coincides with the end of the secular year 2017. The religious and secular realms share something else as well; we immediately move forward into the Book of Exodus and seamlessly, 2018 starts.

Exodus’s incredible story awaits its unfolding. And if only based on the events of the past year, we anticipate 2018 will be filled with things that will both challenge us and have a far-ranging impact upon us. How we respond will also have a great effect on the future as well.

We end Genesis, as with every book of Torah, with the traditional closing: “Hazak, Hazak, v’nitchazek! Be strong and together we shall be strengthened!”

May we live 2018 energized with the courage of our convictions and move forward together. May 2018 be a year of blessings for us all, in which we work toward creating a legacy worthy of the next generation.

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!

A year-end message from Rabbi David Levin

Thank you for your support. Since our launch, Jewish Relationships Initiative has connected with thousands. It is an astounding number and I am deeply gratified that our message of Helping Seekers find Meaning using Jewish Wisdom has been successful for so many. But we have so much more to do. It is an ongoing process. New people are always welcome to connect so they can continue on their journey. Veterans of our site come and go as they find the need. Jewish Relationships Initiative is committed to the personal connections we make and the connections we make to community.

We thank you for your support and ask that you donate to Jewish Relationships Initiative so we can continue to do our important outreach work Helping Seekers find Meaning. Please click on the Donate button to help us in our work.

Todah M’rosh,

Rabbi David

Disaster Spiritual Care

I am pleased to announce that I have joined the Disaster Spiritual Care team of the American Red Cross. I have completed the background checks and continue my training, but I am cleared to go into the field. I look forward to supporting those whose lives have been disrupted by calamity and trauma with this extraordinary group of caregivers.

As we share a season of gratitude for all our blessings, remember to reach out to those who are less fortunate and support the many people on the front lines who are making a difference.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

This is an interesting year indeed. It seems that each day brings new issues testing us in new and often uncomfortable ways. However, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. Let us take time to celebrate our many blessings. For many of us enjoy a bounty. Try to use this time to gather loved ones, families and friends, and recognize the many reasons you have to be grateful.

Let us also use the time to acknowledge we have a long way to go on the journey to fully realize the values that guide us. For there are too many in our country who do not fully enjoy all of its blessings. This is the time to rededicate our efforts to make this a kinder, gentler and fairer place for all.