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Who are you? Who am I?

Posted on 11/01/2013 @ 12:00 PM

Identify: Strengthen Jewish Identity is the first of BBYO’s educational outcomes – our central objectives for how BBYO impacts the lives of our members.

This week’s parsha, Toldot, is full of identity confusion – from mistaken identity to deliberate deception. Isaac pretends Rebecca is his sister instead of his wife and then Jacob, following Rebecca’s instruction, pretends to be Esau to get his father’s blessing. And we’re just a few verses from Jacob trying to marry Rachel but marrying Leah by accident…

So, what can we learn from all this obfuscation?

Each of us takes on new identities from time to time – but hopefully not to the extent in these stories! Part of our life journey – and certainly our Jewish journey – is determining who we are, and who we’re not. Sometimes, outside clues help us figure out who we are (as Jacob referenced his smooth skin as one way his father would know him – an external cue of how he lived and who he was) but quite often it has to come from inside. Many times it’s a matter of trial and error until we come to a comfortable resting place with our core selves.

BBYO reaches teens right at the height of this confusion. The teen years are full of mixed signals, testing out different roles, discarding all sorts of identities, and seeing how the different parts of ourselves – the inside ones and the outside ones – might fit together. As BBYO adults, we get an incredible opportunity to accompany teens through this process. We support them, we give them structure and safety, and hopefully we help ensure that there’s a Jewish component to who they are.

But let’s not exclude our own selves from this process. Whether you are 18 or 88, you are still realizing and refining your own identity. You still need to pull on the wool gloves – as Jacob did to hide his soft skin from giving him away to his father – to see if they fit or if they itch. What new part of yourself can you pull out and test today?

So… who are you? That is the question - - and only you can find the answer.

Writing this, today anyway, is Rachel Meytin, Director of Panim & Jewish Enrichment

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