The lights and music of Hannukah approach – here is the link we played at our Kabbalat Shabbat service last Friday evening: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7MXDlPg_LI
This week we are in Vayeshev – Jacob settled, dwelled, in the land of his ancestors. In the Biblical canon, the word לָשֶׁבֶת (lah-SHEH-vet) means primarily to settle down, though it can also mean, very literally, to sit down. Another word meaning to settle down permanently is לְהִשְׁתַּקֵּעַ(leh-heesh-tah-KEH-ah), of the root שׁ.ק.ע (sh.k.a) meaning sinking or setting. This word has the connotation of putting down roots somewhere. Sinking into the ground.For example:הָעוֹלִים הַחֳדָשִׁים בָּאוּ עִם הַכַּוָּנָה לְהִשְׁתַּקֵּעַ.
The new immigrants (to Israel) came with the intent of permanently settling.
Most, if not all of us, have ancestors who settled in Canada. Some came in the 19th century, some came earlier, some came in the early 20th century. They too established roots in land. In the case of my paternal family the land they attempted to settle was mostly rocks. And my maternal family came in the 18th century to Newfoundland or as it is known to this day – The Rock. For most, these rocky beginnings were filled with hope, as they left behind extreme poverty, pogroms, anti-Semitism, and class limitations. For many immigrants settling in this land was hope, albeit often in a sod house.
New immigrants to this day are putting down their roots, and working hard for their families. To settle can also mean to make do, to accept less than what we want, and certainly sometimes that is what we are forced by circumstance to do. But we usually hold hope for more, for a future with greater opportunities than we might have had. But early settlements wherever they are – Israel, Canada, Biblical or today bring challenges.
Canadian historian Sylvia Van Kirk wrote about the custom of marriage à la façon du pay; “according to the custom of the country” which referred to the custom of early fur traders (men) living common-law with Metis or Indigenous women, often Cree women. Survival in winter conditions was very difficult. These women enabled survival even as their contributions were written out of most history books.
Some Jews who came to Canada were also helped by local Cree communities, as they had been helping people survive for centuries. Winter conditions were horrific for them too, and sheer survival was very difficult. Here is a wonderful link to the story of Jews who came to Canada: https://thebaronhirschcommunity.org/jewish-pioneers-on-the-canadian-prairies/