A community of communities

June 2017

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 4:47pm -- Rabbi

The horrible gun violence in Virginia directed at Republican members of Congress this week shocks us, and of course we condemn it and pray for the recovery of its victims.  At the same time, we must think about why this particular incident has received so much attention, when the unfortunate truth is that gun violence on a much larger scale happen every day in this country with little notice. In this, the great contrast between how Israelis and Americans react to incidents of gun violence and how they view the idea of safety is instructive. Sadly, Israelis have become accustomed to gun violence that has a political motive, but such violence that has a personal or criminal motive, which is extremely rare in Israel, shocks and appalls them.  By contrast, Americans have become so accustomed to the extremely high level of gun violence in America that has a personal or criminal motive that it barely registers, but such violence that has a political motive, which is extremely rare in the U.S., shocks and appalls us. For this reason, Israelis and Americans have the tendency to look at each other's countries and ask, "Is it really safe to live there?!"  The hard truth is that no motive for perpetrating violence on others is acceptable, and both categories of gun violence should shock, horrify, and enrage us.  Our brothers' and sisters' blood is being shed in the streets every day, and we are, for the most part, standing idly by.  May this incident, along with so many others, finally break us out of our complacency and impel us to raise our voices against all gun violence and the deadly weapons that perpetrate it. The blood in our streets cannot allow us to remain silent.

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Mon, 06/12/2017 - 11:03am -- Rabbi

The words "truth" and "true" pervade Jewish prayer, and we even explicitly identify God with truth at the end of the Sh'ma.  This speaks to the high place that Jewish tradition assigns to truth as a divine value, a bright light that shines into our sometimes murky human world.  Even if we cannot always agree about what that light of truth reveals, the idea that we are searching together for the truth at the center of our lives is core to Jewish community.  At this very fraught moment in our national political life, there has been a lot of talk about truth and lies, but mostly the conversation has focused on the personalities involved, as if determining the truth is a popularity contest or something decided by elections.  At such a time, we need to hold fast to the idea of truth as a divine value, something independent of personality or circumstance, and we have to refocus ourselves on the search for truth as the bedrock of human society.  Words have meaning, actions speak loudly, and the truth is not subject to a vote.  We must hold each other and the political figures who represent us to this strict standard of truth, and we must fight against any attempt to elide or erase the distinction between truth and falsehood.  Only then can we hope that the divine light of truth will reveal to us the right path to follow in this very complicated world.

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Fri, 06/09/2017 - 3:58pm -- Rabbi

When the Holy Blessed One created the first human beings, God took them and showed them all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to them, "See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world, for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it." (Midrash Kohelet Raba 7:19) 

As this story from the ancient rabbis teaches us, the responsibility to care for the earth that sustains us and gives us life falls directly on each human being.  It is not something that can be shrugged off, outsourced to someone else, or passed on to a committee or group.  Each of us is individually responsible for protecting the earth and preserving it for future generations.  In that context, the president's decision to withdraw from the always voluntary Paris Climate Accords, while disappointing, is not an end or a defeat but a wake-up call.  Driven by the teachings of Torah, we must raise our voices even louder - joining with the voices of people around the world and with the majority of Americans - to demand that the policies that are already starting to drag us back from the brink of destruction are continued and strengthened.  If we do, we may still be able to bequeath a thriving world to the next generation.  If we do not, there may truly be nobody after us who can repair what we failed to protect.

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