Yayechi. Tradition: A Democracy of the Dead

Twice in this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, the last in the book of Genesis, the dying extract promises from those who will outlive them.  First, Jacob solicits Joseph’s promise to remove his bones from Egypt and bury them in the Promised Land with his ancestors.  Many years later, Joseph obligates his brothers to do likewise.  

Inter-generational promises raise the question: Do we owe anything -- any debt that can only be repaid through our conduct -- to previous generations beyond gratitude for their sacrifices and teachings? Should we allow those now gone to, in any way, dictate rather than merely influence our behavior? To invoke Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s famous maxim, should we afford the past (or tradition) a "veto," or only a "vote?" 

This Shabbat, I yield “the floor” to someone from my own past who, Thank G-d, is still with us – and who is eminently more qualified to comment than I. Rabbi Dr. Eli Schochet has written a brief but challenging D’var Torah entitled “Tradition.”  It is posted on the website of my alma mater, The Academy for Jewish Religion-California.  

In it, Rabbi Schochet -- my rabbinical school Talmud, Codes, and Homiletics professor, thesis advisor, and sage counselor -- challenges us to consider the meaning and value of tradition … and to reexamine our definition of democracy. http://ajrca.org/parsha-of-the-week-main/

Shabbat shalom.  

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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb