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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Great American Hero?!?

Shabbat Shalom....well, it isn't really.  We are, all of us, in deep sorrow and mourning over the loss of so many children.  People ask me, "When is enough?"  1 death - that is more than enough.  Throughout the last 16 hours, I have read many blog posts, articles, editorials comparing yesterday's tragedy to Aurora, Columbine, and other mass killings.  I believe, for the sake of the integrity of those who have died and for the sake of their families, it is important NOT to compare any of these.  1 death = 1 death, regardles of who it is that dies.  Want to argue about gun control?  Go for it - but you know what, arguing over the government's role in gun control will do nothing but lead to more arguing.  What we need to do instead is sit down and really discuss so many things.  Because, you know what?  Gun Control is not the problem.  Mental health is not the problem.  The root of the problem is our inability as human beings to V'ahavtah Lereiacha Kamocha, "Love your neighbor as yourself."

We are ALL created equal.  This is absolutely true.  However, what we are not able to recognize, realize and understand is that while we are all created equal, we are not all the same.  Each of us have strengths and weaknesses.  Each of us have "things we need to work on."  And, it is our realization of this that will eventually lead us to developing the abilities to work with all humans equally.  That is it - we are not all the same; however, we all have the right to live in equality - justice for all!  I am not saying that these horrible events will completely be eradicated from our world.  However, if we learn to love each other and treat each other with respect, we could, just maybe get to a place where these catastrophes end.

Finally, let me end with a prayer for all of those who have lost loved ones in any of the tragedies that have occurred here in the US, in the rest of the world, and/or in any act that was a result of the over abuse of power of some:

Adonai - Our God, please help us to understand the pain of others.
Enable us to share in the burden of all of those who are in pain.
Help us to learn to live the lives you would have us to live.
Teach us to be "God-like"  in our relations with our neighbors.

Adonai - Our God, lead us to peace for all people.
Enable us to join together as one people.
Help us to see beyond race, color and creed.
Teach us what we need to know - even when we are unaware.

Adonai, Elohim, El Shaddai, Jesus, Allah, Earth - help us live together.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Making a difference in our world

To be or not to be?  That is the question...No, no, no.  How about to do or not to do?  Or as Yoda said, "Do or do not..."

I would like to begin this blog with a biblical citation, from Genesis 12:

"Genesis 12: The Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your native land and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.   2I will make of you a great nation, And I will bless you; I will make your name great, And you shall be a blessing. 3I will bless those who bless you, and curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth shall bless themselves by you.”

When we read these words from Genesis 12, we are automatically drawn to God's promise to make of Abraham a blessing.  God will bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse Abraham.  We all know that...we have been taught that year after year after year.  This is what we call "particularism."  God is singling Abraham and his descendants out from every other peoples of the Earth.

Ok, so what, right?  Well, the last part of verse 3 is, in my opinion, the real message.  It takes us from being the ones who are singled out and makes it universal: "All the families of the Earth shall bless themselves by you."  It is as if God expects Abraham to become a blessing and then to spread the blessing out to the rest of those in the world.  This takes it from "particularism" to "universalism."  

This past weekend, I was blessed to spend 3 days with a wonderful group of scholars, rabbis, cantors and educators.  Each of us are alumni of one of the American Jewish World Service rabbinical/Jewish professional missions to a variety of countries in the Global South.  We were engaged, challenged and for many of us (myself included), we found ourselves re-energized.  One of the scholars, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, taught us that although God promises Abraham to make his name great and blessed throughout the world, Abraham had a job as well.  Abraham was to spread the blessing to all peoples.  It is Abraham's responsibility to ensure that all people of the Earth are blessed.  This is a huge responsibility - and one that Abraham does not take lightly.  

I am drawn to words I wrote a couple of years ago prior to my trip to Senegal with AJWS:

Judaism cares very deeply in social justice and social action.  The phrase “Tikkun Olam” has been embedded in my brain since my very first religious school class in preschool.  Going out and helping others has been a part of my life and the life of my family for as long as I could remember.  As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I am in rabbinical school is to be able to teach others – especially the younger generations – what it means to really live the ideal we find in our Torah: V’ahvtah L’reiacha Kamocha – “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  It is this one phrase we find in our beloved Torah that has lead me on my life journey to always seeking to help others in any way I can, especially those in need.

I do intend to write more and discuss more the amazing trip I experienced last weekend as well as the trip to Senegal.  However, I wanted to invite you to watch my good friend and colleague Rabbi Menachem Creditor's reflection on our trip and this week's Torah Portion: Vayesheiv:

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Hanukah!

Rabbi Erin Boxt