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"Do You Recognize Me?"

11/28/2018 02:13:47 PM


Rabbi Reuben Israel Abraham, CDR, CHC, USN (ret)

In this week's portion, Parashat VaYeishev, we read how Yoseyf is sold into slavery by his brothers.  Afterwards, his brothers realize they need an alibi to give their father Ya'akov in order to explain Yoseyf's disappearance.  What do they do?  They slaughter a "se'ir izim," a he-goat, and dip Yoseyf's tunic into its blood.  They then take the bloody tunic to Ya'akov and say: " [Haker na] Recognize, please.  Is this the tunic of your son or not?" (Bereshit/Genesis 37:32)  It is interesting to note that we find another story in this week's parashah that has nothing to do with Yoseyf but that uses these same two Hebrew words: "Haker na."

The Torah tells us that Yehudah has a widowed daughter-in-law, Tamar, who was supposed to be married to her late husband's brother (Yehudah's eldest son) in order to carry on the bloodline of her late husband.  She is actually twice widowed in that her first husband's brother refuses to consummate his marriage to his late brother's wife (Tamar), and he also dies.  Since Yehudah has already lost two sons (Tamar's original husband and her second husband),  he refuses to have his third son marry Tamar.  She decides to take matters into he own hands by disguising herself as a harlot/prostitute and waits for Yehudah at a major crossroad.  Yehudah comes to the crossroad, does not recognize Tamar through her disguise, and proposes to her that he should have sexual relations with her.  She tells him that her price is a "gedi izim," a kid goat.  He pledges he will return with her price, but she wants a guarantee.  She takes his staff, his cloak, and his signet ring as an "eiravon," a guarantee.  When she is found to be pregnant, Yehudah arranges for her execution due to her having committed adultery.  What does Tamar do?  She sends the "eiravon," the guarantee, to Yehudah and says: "[Haker na] Recognize, please.  To whom does this staff, this cloak, and this signet ring belong?" (Bereshit/Genesis 38:25)  Of course, they belong to Yehudah, and he admits it.

Too often, we do not recognize the value of the individuals in our community and family of Congregations of Shaare Shamayim.  Yes, we may see them during Shabbat services, but do we really look at them?  Do we really take the time to "Haker na" ("Recognize, please") their values both as individuals and as members of the greater CSS community?  Do we understand that whether they davven in the Traditional Shabbat Service or in the Egalitarian Shabbat Service they are, in fact, valued members of the CSS community?  In his parting comments during his last Shabbat service at CSS, a former Rabbi reveled in the fact that CSS has two distinct services.  His subtle message seemed to say that the service he led was "authentic" while the other one was not.  It is important to note that the strength of CSS lies in the fact that it validates each and every member as "authentic" and that it works very hard to "Haker na," ("Recognize, please") the worth of our entire community and family.  May we continue to go from strength to strength in this recognition.

Wed, August 21 2019 20 Av 5779