Parshat Va’era

“A Not Too Political Rambling on Bondage and Adlerian Psychology”
By Rabbi Rochelle Robins, Vice President & Dean of the Chaplaincy School at AJRCA
(Please play the David Broza song at the end)
I have heard the political and social concerns of my students, colleagues, and friends, and I share many of them with you!
“I have now heard the moaning of the Israelites because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant. Say, then to the Israelite people: I am Adonai. I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians and free you from bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary utterances” (Shemot 6:5-6).
When and how will we overcome this time? Yes, this time, now following the election, with anxiety provoking degrees of not knowing who will defend the moral integrity and positive outcome of our future. Sforno in Shemot 6:6:2 commented on this part of the verse: “I will free you from the labors of the Egyptians,” by saying that the biblical text meant “that there will be an immediate cessation of the Israelites performing slave labor for the Egyptians.” When will our current text, this existence that we are living in now, show us the writing on the wall that there will be an immediate cessation of any current bondage and undue suffering at the hand of another?
Would you agree that many of us are trying to remain positive and hopeful in this current political climate? Sometimes we are successful and sometimes a feeling of despair or resignation takes over. We carry on with our work, tend to our families, run to the grocery store, write parshiot, sermons, papers for school, and fulfill the obligations and tasks “as if” life is exactly as we’ve always known it to be. Then for a moment we stop and remember that life feels stilted right now.
Adlerian psychology suggests that there is great possibility of healing and wholeness for the person who“acts as if” he/she has already cultivated the characteristics to which she/he aspires. In simple terms “acting as if” we are who we want to be makes the reality of reaching our potential happiness and satisfaction more attainable. While this positive psychological approach is a happy suggestion during gloomy times for the individual, it’s difficult to see how it addresses the complex societal challenges of cultivating global happiness and satisfaction.  Perhaps Alfred Adler would argue that societal stability and contentment starts with the individual, and in a sermon or two, most of us have claimed a similar perspective. And if we haven’t been the ones to preach it, we have certainly been at the receiving end of this concept. It is a concept that may actually be true.
Adler, the founder of what is now referred to as positive psychology, developed his theory and approach with a socialist framework in mind. Karl Marx as one of his greatest inspirations, influenced Adler to pave the way to a simple (and some say too simplistic) view of how to attain integration and health through a de-emphasis on material wealth and the necessity of corporate privatization as a symbol of success.
The point here isn’t to promote any particular angle on economic theory. Most theories, when actually put into practice, have the potential for positive and negative manifestations depending on the levels of integrity or moral corruption that implement them. “Acting as if” was designed to assist individuals and communities in the cultivation of human beings, mensches, who live up to a full potential within the self and within the broader community.
As we await the outstretched arm to free those who are suffering from any form of bondage, and while we don’t want to suppress our feelings of concern, ambivalence, sadness, hesitation, or anger, there is holiness and hope in acting “as if” all will be well and good especially during the most surreal events of our lifetime. The outstretched arm is offered to us through the freedoms we have in the moment and they are indeed worthy of being cherished.
Israeli musician, David Broza, may offer us comfort in the days to come. Please consider clicking on the link for several moments of reflection, sadness, hope, beauty, and possibility.
יהיה טוב
YIHYEH TOV by David Broza
I look out of the window
and it makes me very sad,
spring has left
who knows when it will return.
the clown has become a king
the prophet has become a clown
and I have forgotten the way
but I am still here
And all will be good
yes, all will be good
though I sometimes break down
but this night
oh, this night,
I will stay with you.
Children wear wings
and fly off to the army
and after two years
they return without an answer.
people live under stress
looking for a reason to breathe
and between hatred and murder
they talk about peace.
And all will be good…
(Yes) up there in the sky
clouds are learning how to fly
and I look up
and see a hijacked airplane.
A government of generals
divide the land,
to whats theirs and ours
and we do not/when will we see the end?
We will yet learn to live together
between the groves of olive trees
children will live without fear
without borders, without bomb-shelters
on graves grass will grow,
for peace and love,
one hundred years of war
but we have not lost hope.
And all will be good…
I look out of my window
maybe it has/will come
a new day
Here comes the prince of Egypt
oh how I rejoiced for him
there are pyramids in (our) eyes
and peace in his pipe
and we said let’s complete (it)
and we’ll live as brothers
and he then said (let’s) advance,
just go out from the territories

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