A Lesson From Exodus for the Inauguration

I couldn't help but to laugh a painful laugh knowing that inauguration day falls on the same Sabbath that Jews read the beginning of the Book of Exodus and the famous verse, "A new king arose over Egypt who did not know Joseph." As we transition power in our country from one administration to the next, it is appropriate to ask ourselves: What does this moment mean?Reading this part of the Exodus story at this time is a powerful divine poke in the ribs to pay attention to the stories of our past. A new king comes to power who didn't know Joseph, that is, he somehow didn't know the history of his own country. If he had known Joseph, he would have known the blessings that Joseph brought in the form of the agricultural policies that saved Egypt from famine and in the form of immigrant families who supported and enriched the land. He would have known how to collaborate and welcome new ideas, new people, new religions.But a new king arose who did not know and who was fearful of the other, determined to use his authority as king to stop them, making their lives miserable. It would ultimately ruin him and his country. As the old saying goes, history doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.The question is, how could the new king NOT know Joseph? It wasn't that the new king didn't have the information; it was that the new king didn't care. The reckless disregard for the historical markers that helped and nurtured the wellbeing of his country and all its citizens combined with the willful behavior of trying not to know the other in his midst was the most insidious problem. So convinced of the problems inherent in segments of the population different from him, the new king sought to humiliate and alienate the Israelites rather than cooperate and collaborate. History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.This then becomes the challenge for President Donald Trump and his administration on this inauguration, to really know the other in his midst who is different from him and to really care about the wellbeing of all the citizens. As was the case with Egypt's new king, the very survival of our country depends on it. Willful disregard for policies that help and heal, and harnessing suspicion and anxiety for people who look, act, pray, talk, believe and love differently than those in power, will lead to a country not only divided, but doomed. History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.Andrew Paley is senior rabbi of Temple Shalom in Dallas. Twitter: @askrabbip  Continue reading...

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