The portion opens with a crisis: Isaac marries Rebecca and they, like Abraham and Sarah, are confronted with infertility. It only takes three verses to paint a complete picture of their marriage, their challenges and their much-wanted pregnancy.
Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
About Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz
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It’s not just the tryptophan in the turkey; there is an unmistakable mellowness to a Thanksgiving dinner that feels Shabbosdik: where people take the time to relax, talk, eat and savor the company of loved ones. Not only that, it is one of the few American holidays where this country – of incessant consumption and entrepreneurism – shuts down, in the best possible way.
My oldest and I have had several philosophical conversations on the nature of ‘truth’: he asks me whether fairytales are real, and I have responded to him that things may not be real – as in factual and empirical – but can still be true – as in the values they hold and the ideas they drive.
There’s a healthy amount of trepidation I feel as a Rabbi preaching a sermon on medical issues in a congregation with plenty of doctors. So this is my obligatory disclaimer: I am not a doctor. Any advice dispensed from the bimah is not valid medical advice. This is where my rabbinic authority ends.
When the Torah tells us to ‘sh’lach l’cha’ or ‘lech l’cha’, to send from ourselves or go into ourselves, as in the case of Abraham’s calling, we know that something transformational is about to happen.
Over the years, I’ve grown fonder of Numbers. Called ‘Bamidbar’ or ‘in the wilderness’ in Hebrew, there is something untamed about its stories. This is the book in which the Israelites become unhinged. Complaint follows complaint, rebellion follows rebellion. It’s a brilliant study of human nature and group dynamics. In Parashat Beha’a lot’cha, we are starting to see the cracks.
I remember that first Shabbat after my first child was born. Cradling my newborn, I had lit an extra candle for Shabbat, as per a custom to light an extra light for each child one brings into a family. Now it was time to bless him. Overwhelmed with everything that young parents confront, I now realized that I had the Shechinah dancing on my finger tips as my husband and I rested our hands on our baby’s soft head and uttered the ancient words from this week’s Torah portion.
I am still processing – and I’m sure many of us are – the outcomes of the Alabama and Missouri votes curtailing women’s reproductive freedom. What I want to do is to look beyond the legal mechanisms restricting reproductive healthcare and gaze into the heart of Patriarchy.