Pirke Avot 2:14--“R. Eliezer said: May the honor of your fellow be as dear to you as your own. Do not anger easily. Repent one day before you die. Warm yourself before the fire of the Sages. But be wary with their coals that you not get burnt, for their bite is the bite of a fox, their sting is the sting of a scorpion, their hiss is the hiss of a serpent, and all their words are like fiery coals.”
October 20, 2017
30 Tishrei 5778
Shabbat Noach Gen. 6:9-11:32
All of the sacred days of Tishrei are behind us and our building’s offices are open again on Friday giving me the opportunity to write and send out Shabbat Shalom. I hope that those of you who celebrate the Jewish fall festivals found meaning and insight through the prayers or music or moments you may have taken for your own personal meditation. At Temple Israel here in Canton, we used the new Reform Mahzor Mishkan HaNefesh and from the comments I’ve received first hand or second hand people found it quite meaningful.
As many of you who are regular readers know, I often use this Friday blog to comment on the goings on in the world around us and connect it to Judaism or Torah or my own life. Often, I begin thinking about my words for Shabbat Shalom at the beginning of the week because something in the news caught my eye and I need to figure out how to use it. I must say that for the last nine months what happens on Monday is lost to stratosphere by the time I get around to writing on Friday. The roller-coaster ride of our current politics is exhausting, but even in this exhaustion one must look for trees inside of the forest of—and let me be blunt and honest—the lies that rain down on us every day. I am not talking about fake news because I don’t believe that most of reporting done in this country is “fake news.” I am talking about the words spewing forth from our leaders and the words spewing forth from narrow-minded, bigoted, racist, anti-human people.
Where has all this xenophobic hate come from in this world? Fear? Loathing? I heard a story recently of a young Jewish girl who was on the receiving end of an anti-Semitic comment. Children aren’t born with hate, but learn it from the adults who are supposed to be better than that. Hate is not a biological fact. I wonder if the world we are trying to navigate today is at all similar to one imagined in the story of Noach? We read at the beginning of this week’s parashah, “11The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness. 12When God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth, 13God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth.” Is Noach’s world our world today? Seeing coverage of white supremacist rallies on college campuses or listening to people hold up as heroes those who wanted to maintain the institution of slavery, turns my stomach upside down and constricts the love I have in my heart. We know from the ending of the story of Noach that God will not destroy the earth again so are we doing it to ourselves?
So here is my response—DON’T BE SILENT! Noach didn’t fight back against the lawlessness and instead quietly built an ark to save his family (and many animals too). We must raise our voices against hate, against anti-Semitism, against racism. We must FIGHT for the world we believe in and for the country we want to live in and for the society that embraces the other regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any of the other categories that bigots want to marginalize. I am in favor of building houses for Habitat and not walls around the borders of our country. I am in favor of protecting those most vulnerable in our country and not finding ways to push them out or down. There isn’t going to be another flood (well maybe there will be with the seas rising and stronger hurricanes, but that is for another conversation) that will solve society’s ills and struggles. It is up to you and me to open our hearts and minds and souls to a country and a world the embraces many ideas. Just as Noach was righteous in his generation it is time for us to be righteous now with our words and deeds and actions.
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one and let it lead us to action in creating a better world. Light the other candle for all those who struggle. May this light give them hope.
Rabbi Jon Adland