A few weeks ago, my son looked at the moon as we were driving and said, “Abba, Rosh Chodesh is here.” While the rest of the world would simply say, “Look at the new moon,” this young child put it in perspective of his Jewish identity.
The Torah tells us that when Jacob sent messengers to Esau, we read im lavan garti, I lived with Lavan, who we know had evil ways.
Rashi explains that the word garti, meaning I lived, adds up to 613, the same number as the amount of mitzvot in the Torah. The message that this sent Esau is profound: When Esau observed his brother, steeped in tradition, he saw a sense of pride and strength. We learn that when Isaac blessed Jacob he head the voice of Jacob and felt the hands of Esau.
It is the voice that leads to action.
I was blessed to have a Jewish education through sixth grade. For my middle school and high school years, there was not an option of Jewish education where I grew up. Instead, it was the home and the synagogue that became the place where I witnessed the model of voices rising and hands doing. In a secular school, I was the voice of Judaism and I was the voice of Israel. Just this past year, I received a note from a high school classmate of mine who was going through a spiritual crisis. After we spoke about the challenges at hand, I asked him, “What was it like to see me decades ago be a voice of Judaism in our school community?” He answered me in truth, “I admired what your family represented, and the strong identity you demonstrated with your voice.”
That was Jacob, a man who dwelled among other, but whose identity never wavered. Jacob became Israel. He left that legacy to you and me. Let us not break that chain.