Nearly seventy members of Kehila have signed on to the new list serve of the Kehila Response Group. A major purpose of the list serve is to educate our members about the issues and challenges from the new administration that are confronting us individually, the country, and the world. Another purpose is to offer us ways in which to "respond" and make our voices heard. As human beings, as citizens of this country and as Jews we are called upon to be part of a growing movement of vigilance and response. It is certainly in our people's genes to do that. The imperative to create a more just and compassionate society is at the core of the Torah, the Prophets, and Judaism. Each generation is reminded to remember our own story of persecution and freedom.
Coinciding with the Inaugural we began reading once again the Book of Exodus. The first chapter states that a "new Pharoah arose who did not know Joseph." This new leadership enslaves the Hebrews. He orders the leading midwives Shifra and Puah to kill the newborn baby boys. They refuse. Then the Pharaoh ordered, "every boy that is born to you shall be thrown in the Nile..." Yocheved, Miriam and the Pharaoh's daughter resist. That the Women's March took place on this weekend deepens the holy significance of the threats ahead of us. The rabbis teach that because of these women's acts of resistance the Torah was given to the people at Sinai and the generations.
The next several chapters in Exodus recall the rise of leadership and the resistance movement led by Moses, Miriam, and Aaron. Demonstrations and various strategies plague the new fascist government. The parallels are clear.
The weekend before the Inaugural and the March, the spirit of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. came to us to give us guidance. From King:
- "There comes a time when silence is betrayal."
- "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
- "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
- "Only in the darkness can you see the stars."
And Abraham Heschel, King's friend and fellow activist, whose birthday was just three days before King, said:
"....morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible."
We, as a Jewish community, must never lose sight of our history and of our unique place in the world. In Israel and the United States we read statements and see actions that are contrary to our prophetic values and the essential mission of our religion and value-culture. The primary purpose of the Torah was to bring a people and the God of Life and Liberation into relationship with each other for the purpose of creating a just and compassionate society. We are the Creator's instruments for caring for the poor, the homeless and the elderly, protecting the earth and releasing those who are bound up. Without this Covenantal understanding, who are we? "Ki Mitzion TeTzeh Torah...from out of Zion shall go forth Torah-Teaching…" The Torah and the prophets speak of the mission of the people..."to be a light unto the nations..."(Isaiah 49:6)
The great Yiddish writer of the early 20th century Isaac Leib Peretz wrote:
"It often happens that we lose our way and must retrace our steps - to find what was left behind and had been forgotten. If not we can't go any further. We must never stand still!"
He goes on to call for a renaissance of Jewish values and purpose. May we be strong and strengthen each other in the days ahead.
L'Shalom uv'rakha, for peace and blessing,