Message of the Week: Genealogy of the world
As a Jew, I am a member of a community known by many names, among them "The People Of The Book." The "book" reference, of course is to our most sacred text, the Hebrew Bible. Our tradition is to read one part of the Bible, the Torah, from beginning (Genesis) to the end (Deuteronomy) and then begin again. Amazingly, each year that I encounter the same stories I have been reading for most of my 62 years, I learn or see something new — something that I never saw before. So it is this year.
My least favorite parts of the Torah are the genealogies; the parts that give the names of people from each generation; who begot who. To me, reading these names has always been about as interesting to me as reading a phone book — not very! But a funny thing has happened over the years which has changed all that. I've grown older. With the passing years, I had children. And now my children are having children — six so far, with two more who will "arrive" within the next few weeks.
My grandchildren (as is the case, I'm sure with all grandchildren) are beautiful and brilliant. Most interesting is that they are all unique with different temperaments, different personalities, different interests, etc. Each one, God willing, will set off in their own direction in life, will have their own vision of a better world and will have their own life adventures.
As we in the Jewish world are about to begin the Torah once again from the beginning, I know that I will read those genealogies differently than ever in the past. Instead of seeing simply a list of random names, I think I will see in those names a human being; somebody who was part of a family; a family which was part of a tribe (biblically speaking); a tribe that was part of a nation.
But more deeply than this, I will see in each name a person who lived out their life, who set off in their own direction in life, who had their own vision of a better world and who had their own life adventures.
I will see in these heretofore random names the people who connect me to my earliest ancestors, without whom I probably would not be who I am today.
As we teach in the Jewish tradition, each life is the equivalent of the entire world. That is what each of those names represents — an entire world. That is what each of us represents as well.