Down and Up

For years I have been reading articles by political commentators about how polarized our political system is. How in the past, politicians from different sides of the aisle would get together socially and how that would lead to better cooperation in government, but today those social interactions are few and bipartisan cooperation is far between. And as bitterly divided as our country was over President Obama, it seems that the country is even more divided over President Trump. Is there any hope?

In this week’s Torah portion the Israelites finally leave Egypt, but Pharaoh regrets this decision and chases after them as they are encamped by the sea. The Torah says, “U’Pharo Hikriv, Veyisu Bnai Yisrael Et Eineihem Vehinei Mitzrayim Nosay Achareihem Veyeeru Me’od Veyitzaku Bnai Yisrael El Adonai, And Pharaoh drew near, and the Children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold Egypt was chasing after them, and they became very afraid, and the Children of Israel cried out to God.”

Rabbi Meir Yechiel from Moglenitza noticed that the phrase “And Pharaoh drew near” can be read a different way, because the subject and object are not perfectly clear. He teaches that it was not Pharaoh himself who was coming closer, but that Pharaoh was drawing the Israelites near. Near to what? To repentance, as evidenced by their reaction to seeing the Egyptian army, which was to pray to God. He concludes by saying that it is difficult for him to say this, but it is Pharaoh who brought the Israelites closer to God. Good things can come from bad things.

In the Rabbinic idiom, Yeridah Letzorech Aliyah, sometimes you have to go down in order to go up. Even though we might have felt that things could not have gotten more divided politically in this country, we are seeing that they can get worse. But maybe all of this rancor is for a good purpose. To make us remember that there is actually a broad swath of people and policies in our country that agree, if we can just get past the yelling. So, while things may be bad for a while, hopefully this will remind us of the importance of working together for a brighter future.

Shabbat Shalom
Rav Sela