Sunday, January 09, 2011

Honoring Ancestors - The Most Difficult Mitzvah

ד׳ בשבט תשע"א
Imbolgen 6

I've written about this in past blog entries, but in light of today's attempted assassination of congresswoman Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, I am thinking about it again today. I am thinking about it again because the congresswoman, like so many from mixed marriages, 'chose' one set of Ancestors over the other, deciding to identify herself as "Jewish only" and rejecting her non-Jewish heritage. In my opinion, this kind of rejection violates the mitzvah (one of the Ten Commandments, in fact) to honor one's "parents," who in fullness, are one's known Ancestors.

JTA reports:

Giffords was elected to Congress in the Democratic sweep in 2006. The first Jewish woman elected to Congress from the state, she made her Jewish identity part of her campaign.

"If you want something done, your best bet is to ask a Jewish woman to do it,” said Giffords, a former state senator, said at the time. “Jewish women — by our tradition and by the way we were raised — have an ability to cut through all the reasons why something should, shouldn’t or can’t be done and pull people together to be successful."

Giffords, 40, was raised "mixed" by a Christian Scientist mother and Jewish father, but said that after a visit to Israel in 2001, she had decided she was Jewish only. She attended services at a local Reform synagogue.

Honoring one's Ancestors does not mean one has to follow their religion, but I think it does mean that one cannot cut off from oneself an entire limb of ancestral heritage. No one is only Jewish or only any other ethnic or racial group. There is no such thing as a human purebred anymore. We are all mutts, and Torah instructs us to honor our Ancestors. The Talmud (Talmud Yerusahlmi, Peah I:1) informs us that this mitzvah to honor one's Ancestors is the hardest mitzvah to perform. Tradition teaches us to make peace among our Ancestors. To do this, we must embrace and love them.

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