Pirke Avot 1:17--“Shimon the son of Rabban Gamliel said: All my life I have been raised among the Sages, and I have not found anything better for oneself than silence. Study is not the primary thing but action. Whoever talks excessively brings about sin.”
May 19, 2017
23 Iyar 5777
Shabbat Behar/Bechukotai 25:1-27:34
Sometimes it gets hard to find the peace of Shabbat with the political storm swirling around. Sandy wants to know why I keep watching and listening to the news. It is hard to explain. At the same time, I know that whatever I write and how I see the world comes from my liberal, progressive views. I accept this and, yes, embrace this. Some people who get my Shabbat Shalom write me back complaining about my perspective and some have asked to be removed from my blog. Others write and say “thank you” for my words. I have tried hard over the last several weeks not to get caught up in writing about our country’s direction, leadership, politics and more. Shimon ben Rabban Gamaliel urges me to keep silence with his words at the top of the page. Action is the primary thing. Too much talk or, in my case, writing can bring about sin. But the time comes when I must say something and, at the same time, I continue to act.
I must be honest; our nation has turned an uncomfortable corner. Anything we don’t believe becomes fake news. Tweets become the new news. (I don’t have a twitter account.) Alternative facts are put forward as truth. Spin is spinning so fast I think the top is going to explode. There are the inevitable accusations and denials leading some to Shakespeare’s famous line from Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Every day is something new and you don’t even know where it is going to come from. Twenty-four-hour news-cycles don’t help either because it needs content and they find content wherever they look. I am not going to point any fingers, but, I believe, we need to take a deep breath for a moment. Our parasha this week begins, “Adonai spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai: Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: When you enter the land that I assign to you, the land shall observe a sabbath of Adonai.” God wants to give the land a sabbatical, some time to rest. I think that is what many people are hoping for on the political landscape as well.
The last four months have been exhausting. Some are cheering and some are jeering. Some, I believe, want to lock him up and others want him to be able to do his job and carry out his promises. Some want congress to be productive and some want it to be obstructionist. We’ve been in this cycle of partisanship for so long that no one knows or has the will to move forward and get us out of this mess. We, the people, in the meantime are the ones who suffer. We suffer economically. We suffer psychologically. We suffer emotionally. And, like the land, we need to take a break and encourage some healing. This will only happen if we stop demonizing the opposition, minorities, foreigners, other religions and remember that this country for the last 200+ years has absorbed people from all over the world. People came here looking for hope and opportunity. People came here fleeing what was bad and oppressive elsewhere. We’ve forgotten that we are all immigrants to this land and we all have a stake in its future. If we keep pointing fingers and lying and believing fake news and reading tweets that are divisive, the ground will never heal and won’t be productive for the future. At the same time, I want our government to make sure that our democracy is strong, its citizens needs addressed, and religion and state kept separate.
I know that any sabbatical won’t last long, but a deep breath would be appreciated. There are a lot of things floating around out there that need to be clarified and resolved. Questions need to be asked and honest answers heard. At some point, due process must take its course and, after that, we must work to move forward learning to talk to each other once again as hard as that may be. 240+ years ago, this country declared its independence from the monarchy of England. Over hills and valleys, we have muddled forward creating something good and important. People want a piece of this goodness. Let’s find a way to keep it strong and bright.
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light for the hope of a better tomorrow filled with love and kindness and peace. Light the other candle and let its flame be calm to the everyday storms that we feel around us.
Rabbi Jon Adland