Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Shared with the TBY Community on January 29, 2017


This greeting, ‘shalom’, is a word with which most of us are familiar.  Its meanings include:  Hello, Goodbye and Peace.  Yet, there is a deeper meaning to this word and that is connected to its Hebrew root:  Shleimut, meaning wholeness.  Right now, at this moment in our national history as Americans and as Jews I am praying for Shleimut, wholeness.  This feeling is in direct response to the decisions of our national leadership to separate us from our American values that guide us as a beacon of hope, freedom and possibility.  All of us at some point in our history are descendants of immigrants and many of us claim refugees as ancestors.  For many among the American Jewish community, Emma Lazarus’ words on the Statue of Liberty remain a strong reminder of this past:

“…Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

It is this value inscribed on our shore that has served as a constant reminder of the American Jewish Experience and one we MUST continue for all those in need.  Certainly an eye towards the security of our nation must always see clearly, yet our character as a nation is corroded when we fail to live up to this highest of ideals.  Even more, we are reminded of our own z’man cheruteinu - time of our freedom (Passover) when we consider the ways our country must continue to serve as shelter for refugees around the globe.  Part of that Passover story is what we are reading in Torah this week in parashat Bo (click here>>>) as we conclude the plagues and prepare or liberation.  Last week, at Torah study in the valley, one learner raised an intriguing question:  What would the 11th plague have been had Pharaoh not heeded long enough to allow our escape?  I fear we may be battling one possible answer to that question today.  The problem, serving as a sign, of complacency and divisiveness around our values is plaguing us now. 

As we learn in Torah:  When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not wrong him. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt (Leviticus 19:33-34).  It is our ultimate responsibility to protect against this apathy by standing up for our American and our Jewish value of welcoming the stranger, of caring for the refugee and upholding the foundational principles that under-gird our Jewish identity and our American ideals. 

I beseech all of us to consider our President’s recent executive order titled:  Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.” (click here to read the text>>>)  And, while considering its text in theory and its potential in practice, I ask us to respond based on our values.  Our Reform Movement of Judaism’s Religious Action Center has provided us a statement to consider in forming our own autonomous position - click here>>>.  And, should you choose to act, here are resources to contact your representatives - click here>>>. 

At this moment, during which I believe we will all be judged by future generations for our action and inaction, we are reminded of our words of our sage Hillel:  If I am not for myself, who will be for me?  If I am only for myself, who am I?  And, if not now, when? (Ethics of the Fathers 1:14)  We all share this Earth, and while countries and countless other realities may divide us at times, we must balance our human connections - our wholeness.

B’Kavod - Respectfully,

Rabbi Evon