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Zooming out to get a bigger picture

Often, we are so encompassed in our own narrative that it is hard to see the larger picture of what is going on around us. Rabbi Prof. David Frankel, senior Bible lecturer at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, reminds us that this is an age-old issue. We are not the first to come across this phenomenon,  and, in fact, there is clear evidence of this in Tanach. Frankel brings in an example from this week’s Haftarah, from the book of Amos, and explains why we must take a step back and view the full picture.

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This week’s parashah is Parashat Achrei Mot and the haftarah of the parsha is from the end of the book of Amos. Amos was a prophet, one of the first prophets in Israel’s prophetic tradition, and the reading of the haftarah begins with a striking verse
“הֲלֹ֣וא כִבְנֵי֩ כֻשִׁיִּ֨ים אַתֶּ֥ם לִ֛י בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נְאֻם־יְהוָ֑ה הֲלֹ֣וא אֶת־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל הֶעֱלֵ֨יתִי֙ מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרַ֔יִם וּפְלִשְׁתִּיִּ֥ים מִכַּפְתֹּ֖ור וַאֲרָ֥ם מִקִּֽיר”
“‘You are like the people of the Chusites o Israelites’ says the lord ‘just as I took the Israelites out of Egypt, so I took the Philistines out of Caphtor and the Arameans out of Kir’”. What is the prophet trying to tell us and why is he saying this to the Israelite people? I believe that the message is an eternal message, we tend to focus on ourselves. We tend to see the world through our own cultural eyes tell our own narrative and repeat it, and that’s as it should be. And yet there is a danger that when we continuously focus only on our own narrative, we forget that there are other cultures, that there are other peoples, and they too have their own special stories that must be heard and must be respected. The prophet tells us ‘You are not that different from other people. I took the Israelites out of Egypt, but I took the Philistines out of Caphtor. They’re also part of my divine plan. I took the Arameans out of Kir.’ In other words, we must be careful not to get too lost in our own narrative. We must always also listen to the stories and the teachings and be careful to be sensitive to the narratives of all of those around us
Shavua Tov from Schechter

**Beginning immediately after Pesach and until August, Parashat Hashavua in the Diaspora is one week ‘behind’ the Parasha in Israel. Shavua Tov@Schechter will follow the Diaspora schedule.

David Frankel is Associate Professor of Bible at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. He has been on the faculty since 1992. He earned his PhD from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of Prof. Moshe Weinfeld. His publications include “The Murmuring Stories of the Priestly School,” and “The Land of Canaan and the Destiny of Israel.”  From 1991 to 1996, Frankel was rabbi of Congregation Shevet Achim in Gilo, Jerusalem.

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