In last week's Parshat VaYetze, Jacob flees the home of his parents after taking his older brother's blessing and fearing for his life. He has a dream of angels going up and down a ladder from Earth to Heaven. Upon awaking, he remarks, "Surely God was in this place, and I did NOT know it" (Genesis 28:16). How many times have we all realized that something important was happening but we missed it, that there was an opportunity for holiness, connection, or healing, but we did not realize it? This is not just a matter of dreams, it's a matter of every day reality, as well as ethics. Last week's Torah portion as well as our national calendar had several opportunities for seeing, forgetting, and remembering. As Jacob develops into an adult a his uncle's house, he marries, and has children to the people who ultimately become the 12 tribes. However, he has not 12 children, not just 12 boys, but 13 children including a daughter named Dinah. We'll read more about her painful story next week. Why isn't she a bigger part of the story? What are the consequence of that lack? Moreover, Jacob's 13 children have 4 mothers, Rachel and Leah, as well as Bilhah and Zilpah. Rachela and Leah are his full wives, while the other two are their servants and become Rachel's concubines. Rachel and Leah make it onto our list of foremothers, the Imahot, along with Sarah and Rebbekah. What are the consquences of leaving out Bilhah and Ziplah, of excluding them from our spiritual lives and the family stories we tell? We all have stories in our families, that are difficult, painful even. There are times to keep those stories close the chest, and private, but the cost is usually high. In our National Calendar, on Thursday we all celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday which is particularly dear to my family since we immigrated to the U.S. in this generation. At the same time, it's history is not as rosy as the version which most of us learned in grade school. What are the consequences of celebrating of the Pilgrims, without telling the full painful story of the death toll to the Native Americans ? Last, but in no way least, last Monday was Transgender Remembrance Day, honoring the many lives lost and scarred in anti-transgender violence. A Judeo-Christian tradition, and sometimes the Torah itself, are too often mis-used as a basis for fear, hatred, and even violence towards people who are Transgender. People forget that the Torah also teaches that each human being is created in the "Image of God." Genesis 1:28 teaches that "God created the Human Being in God's Image, male and female He created them." The Talmud goes on to recognize no less than 6 different genders. You can read much more about Judaism and gender via Keshet, the national organization working for full LGBT equality and inclusion. You can read more about how the scientific understanding of sex and gender has evolved in recent decades, via the Scientific American, the National Geographic, as well as many scholarly scientific journals. What are the consequences of not recognizing and treating all people as full reflections of G-d, with ineffable and inalienable dignity?
The Forgotten Parts of Our Lives