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Thoughts About This Week

06/05/2020 01:24:19 PM


This week has left us all feeling breathless and shocked. From the horrible killing of George Floyd at the hands of violent police officers, to the national protests against race discrimination, to built-up tension from the lockdown - this has been an emotionally exhausting week for our country and humanity.

Of course, we need to look no further than the first chapter of the Bible to find the idea of divine equality among human beings.

וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים ׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃
And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

How can it be that people of any faith, who have studied and even memorized this scripture, disregard it and treat fellow human beings with such hatred? The foundation of Judaism - indeed of all three monotheistic religions - is the concept of godliness that exists within each soul. That precept even made its way into our US Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal," and serves as the first article of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Right:

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

How sad that in the year 2020/5780 we have not yet learned the most essential lesson of the first chapter of the Bible. Indeed, if every person is created in the image of God, then every form of racism or intolerance is working against God and against creation.

Birkat Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing), is found in the week's Parasha, Naso. This text, containing only three verses, are the words with which God instructs the Kohanim to bless the congregation of Israel. The same blessing is given by a bridegroom to his bride, and from parent to child each Shabbat:

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ ה׳ וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃
May HaShem bless you and protect you.
יָאֵ֨ר ה' פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃
May HaShem enlighten you with His presence and grace you.
יִשָּׂ֨א ה' פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃
May HaShem direct his presence to you and grant you peace.

Later in Genesis, God tells Abraham:
וְנִבְרְכוּ בְךָ כֹּל מִשְׁפְּחֹת הָאֲדָמָה
All the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.

Judaism has a role to play in annihilating intolerance and recognizing the divine spark within all people. We have a religious duty to model the equality and values that the Torah represents, including a love for all humanity and protecting all of creation.

At HTAA, we have reached out to our interfaith clergy partners, expressing our support and solidarity. My friend, Dr. Victor Kennedy, a pastor at a local church, thanked us for our support and reminded me that on their pulpit stands a flag of the State of Israel. He said that they value their connection with the Jewish people and with the Land of Israel, a relationship that is central to their faith. Of course, the feeling is mutual.

May this Shabbat bring healing to our community and to our country. May it be a Shabbat of reflection and contemplation. Let us remember our role in the world as Ohr Lagoyim "a light unto the nations" and rededicate ourselves to our Jewish mission, as expressed by Hillel in Ethics of our Fathers:

Be among the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and bringing them close to Torah.

Rabbi Suson
Sat, July 2 2022 3 Tammuz 5782