Monday, November 22, 2010

Facing the Pain

Parshat VaYeshev
20 Kislev 5771 / November 27, 2010
Bereshit 37:1 – 40:23

Facing the Pain
by Zvi Bellin, MHHQ

We experience times when it is hard to face the truth. When life deals us a hand that is painful, our first reaction can be, “No! It’s impossible.” We’ve all been there personally and part of the global community. 9/11. The Tsunami. A death of a loved one. Sometimes it is a natural disaster and other times a travesty conducted by the hands of people. What shatters the bubble of our disbelief is referred to in this week’s portion as HaKer Nah (הכר נא) – Please recognize.

This phrase appears twice in this week’s portion. The first, when Joseph’s brothers show Jacob the torn and bloodied coat that is submitted as proof that Joseph is dead. The second, when Tamar reveals the ring, cloak and staff of Judah covertly proving that Judah had impregnated Tamar, saving her reputation and her life.

This phrase Haker Nah and its use in Parshat Vayeshev is baffling to me. On the one hand, the phrase is used to rip apart someone’s reality. It is used to make a person face a truth that alters a fundamental part of how their world operats. For Jacob, he becomes a depressed father in mourning, and for Judah, he realizes the error of his ways and the pain he had caused to another person. On the other hand, we have the word Nah (please), which attempts to soften the brutal shattering.

I think that there is a crucial lesson for Kislev, the month where we sift through our darkness to find the light. In order for healing to occur acceptance is the first barrier. And it can be extremely difficult and painful to achieve. We have to be gentle with ourselves and others, softly stroking the awareness to see what we refuse to see. Push ourselves to glimpse quickly and then turn away, again and again until we are ready to face some real terror.

And what is waiting on the other side of acceptance? In Judaism we are not left alone to suffer. This is where the power of ritual in community becomes crucial. For Jacob, slow healing ensues with the process of sitting Shiva (mourning rituals). For Judah, it is the practice of confession and Teshuvah.

May we all grow from our pains softly, gently, and in the right time.


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