The world, The Baal Shem Tov once said, is full of people who in the guise of piety are ready to harm others.
How often we have seen those words come true, especially lately. Just a casual glance at the news shows again and again hurtful words and actions and their results: Increasingly hostile rhetoric on both sides, with ever greater hyperbole fueling a self-destructive national discourse. A loyalty oath for non-Jews, but not Jews. A rash of suicides among gay teens and young adults, followed up by some of the worst violence against gays the city of New York has ever seen, and a political candidate rubbing salt into the wound, insisting that “There is nothing to be proud of being a homosexual. That’s not how God created us” to the applause of rabbis and Jews. And on, and on, until we feel we are surrounded by hate and hateful speech. And while it saddens and angers us when it happens with anyone, I am especially torn up inside when I see fellow Jews, landsmen, on the wrong side, as we’ve seen both with Carl Paladino’s presentation as well as what’s happening in Israel.
This is not how it’s supposed to be. We read this week God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah: “I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and curse the one who curses you; and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.”
We are to be a blessing, a light to the nations, as Isaiah writes. How can we bring light, that everlasting fire, as Tolstoy writes, if we are too busy engaging in curses? No, we must find the way to bring blessing again.
There are rays of light. The “It gets better” program that started spontaneously a few years ago from commentator Dan Savage is picking up speed, helping those agonized by bullying, especially in the LGBT community. Our own Reform movement has created more resources against such injustices, and the organization Keshet is asking every Jewish community and all members of every community to pledge to stand against suffering and injustice. But it cannot be enough to let organizations do it on their own, to simply pass along an email or a news clipping or youtube video. We must become advocates ourselves. We must become lights ourselves. We must stand against the speech, against the curses, at every opportunity, and fill that space with blessing. We owe it to those around us and to ourselves to not stand idly by, and whether that discrimination is coming from Jews or non-Jews, to stand against it and for that kindness that brings on wisdom. Then, may it truly be said, that we shall be a blessing. Amen.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
And this was dialed back from how I was really feeling that day!
Saturday, October 2, 2010
Here's a nice article about Congregation Beth Emeth's adoption of the new Reform Movement prayerbook, Mishkan T'fillah. Some parts of it are a bit, uh, Christo-centric (we don't open our books 'from back to front', but from right to left), and one of the quotes gets the patriarchs wrong (see if you can spot it!), but otherwise, it (I think) accurately reflects how a congregation explores the question of how we change how we pray.