Parshat Toldot

Torah Reading for Week of November 4-10, 2018
“Vote! It  has Consequences for this and Future Generations”
by Rabbi Anne Brener, AJRCA Professor of Ritual and Human Development

 

The views expressed in this drash are those of the author. We welcome Torah insights and teachings from all viewpoints, and encourage dialogue to strengthen the diversity of our academy.
Having buried Abraham and Sarah, the biblical narrative moves to the next generation: Isaac and his family. This week’s parsha is Toldot, which can mean “generations,” “begettings” or “consequences.”
There is a picture of me in suffragette whites, on Voting Day 2016. I am standing in front of my Hillary Clinton lawn sign before going to the polls. The image shows how one generation is consequent to those preceding it. As my neighbor aimed her iPhone to record my celebration, I invoked my great-grandmother, who marched for women’s suffrage in 1848 at Seneca Falls, N.Y.; my grandmother, who graduated from law school at New York University in 1919; and my mother, whose life finally made sense to her when she read “The Feminine Mystique” in 1963. She responded by going back to college and starting a program to help other women do the same.  How I wished they were alive to see that day!
But not that night.
Many compare their experiences since the 2016 election to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief, which describe the emotional states after loss.
 
Step One: Denial. As the unexpected results emerged, one member after another of my chavurah whispered, “It isn’t possible,” as if chanting a dirge. Time passes and each morning I awake to remember, once more, that the impossible has happened. Every morning the shock comes again, as the awareness passes over my body, cell by cell.
 
Step Two: Anger. My jaw is tight. With news of each outrage, conflict of interest, legitimization of a fascist group (https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/proud-boys-republican-club-wwii-fascists.html) , celebration of a dictator, and gutting of legislation to protect vulnerable people and the vulnerable planet, I yell at the television. I have no patience for small talk. A checker at Trader Joe’s says, “Have a nice day.” I snap back, “In Trump’s America?” (I was not rebuked.)
 
Step Three: Bargaining. I watch way too many news programs. I make calls to congress people and donations. I write postcards to voters, post on Facebook, sign petitions. I pray for our country and for the strength to stand for the values described in the Jewish liturgy.
Step Four: Depression. There are times when I feel despair, unsure that I will see the arc toward justice turn in my lifetime. I worry about my daughter and her generation and the generations (Toldot) to come. I cry a lot.
Step Five: Empowerment. Kubler-Ross’ designation of the final stage as “acceptance” never resonated with me. “Acceptance” is too passive to describe the energy and wisdom that emerges with fully processed grief. Successful bereavement makes a place in our lives for our grief, as our world expands around it. We go forward with a new reality and rearranged assumptions about God and the universe. Grief focuses us on what is essential and empowers us to address it. In this case, the results of the 2016 election has stoked my commitment to cherished Democratic values. It impels me to act.
In the name of these values and in this week of Toldot I plead with you. Vote!!! It has consequences….for our own lives and for future generations.