I am a rabbi because of a game of catch I played at camp with a rabbi more than three times my age. ... Others people who have changed my direction are like supporting actors in my life. ... In Parashat Vayeishev, Joseph goes out searching for his brothers who are supposed to be in the field tending the flock. ... Along the way he meets a man whose name we never know: The Torah refers to him simply as ha-ish, ”the man” who saw Joseph wandering in the field (Gen. 37:15).
This week's Torah portion, Vayeitzei, describes the first part of the journey of the biblical Jacob. Fleeing the wrath of his brother, whose birthright he purchased and whose blessing he stole, Jacob is “heading for the exits.” Fleeing his home, along the way he stops and dreams of angels and God. Jacob awakens from his dream with a start and declares to no one in particular: Achein yeish Adonai bamakom hazeh v’anochi lo yadati, “Surely God is in this place and I [“I” is repeated] did not know it!” (Gen. 28:16).
I am an American citizen living in Vancouver, British Columbia, and serving a Canadian Reform congregation for the past six years. This juxtaposition of two increasingly disparate identities has given me a unique perspective on this week’s parashah, Chayei Sarah, and its introduction of the term ger toshav, “resident foreigner.”