Our Past is Not Our Destiny

This last Thursday night I had my first and likely last experience singing in a Broadway type musical. I was the guest opening singer in a delightful local production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I somehow managed to remember a fairly large number of the right lyrics and did not trip over and fall on one of the children, which would have been extremely awkward, especially on opening night.

The show itself and this production in particular is very entertaining and fast paced. The songs are good and everything moves nicely to an upbeat conclusion. What gets lost in the show is that there are some really bad people who are involved in the Joseph story.

I do not just mean the brothers who throw Joseph in a pit. That is certainly bad enough. I was thinking more about the Midianites to whom the brothers sell Joseph. The Midianites were not merely merchants. They were in the slave trade, as well, and could care not less about the humanity of their cargo. They could have used, “We will be your brother’s keeper” as their business motto.

The Book of Genesis warns against having any contact with them because of their lack of morality.

It is fascinating, then, that when Moses, in the Book of Exodus, leaves Pharaoh’s palace, the only home he ever knew, and flees into the wilderness, lost and alone, The people in he runs into are Midianites. He rescues some of them from a bad situation, but ultimately they save him. He marries a Midianite woman. His children are half Midianite. His most trusted advisor, the man who really teaches him about leadership and selflessness, is his father-in-law Yitro, a Midianite priest.

The Torah is teaching us that our family history does not have to be our destiny. We can recreated ourselves to be the kind of person we want to be. We may have very difficult and challenging people in our past. We may have painful memories of things they did, maybe even to us. It does not mean that we are destined to relive and perpetuate those things.

Every morning in our prayers we remind ourselves that our souls are pure. Our souls cannot be damaged or made unclean. We have the potential to rise above the difficult aspects of our past. This does not mean we need to make a complete break with our past, or that we should. I hope we all have positive and loving memories of our past.

I want us to be able to face the past with compassion, and get on with the kind of lives that would make us happier, without hearing those negative voices or thoughts from our history.

This Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. day, which I am thrilled that we observe as a nation. He understood that history is not destiny. This is a quote from his I Have a Dream speech.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

Dr. King understood that you had to believe in the potential for the children of your enemy to transcend their past and become better people.

True freedom and liberation begins with the realization that we can honor what is best of the past, but we do not have to be slaves to it. We can recognize that God created us already free.

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