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We Were All at Colleyville #710

01/21/2022 05:51:00 PM

Jan21

Rabbi Irwin Huberman

Parashah Yitro
“You are standing today all of you before your God….from the chopper of your wood to the drawer of your water.” (Deuteronomy 29:11)

We Were All at Colleyville

This past Monday, Judaism welcomed its newest member. 

Her Hebrew name is Elisheva, who earlier this week traveled to Manhattan where, at the West Side Mikvah, she submerged, thus completing her Jewish conversion.

We met on Zoom a day earlier to go over some final details. But, before we began, I asked her:

“So how did you react yesterday, as you watched those four people held hostage in Texas.”

She replied: “I was very very concerned, and I closely followed everything on television. Rabbi, these are my people.”

I smiled. For after more than a year of weekly studies, instructions, questions and answers, Hebrew lessons and teachings, Elisheva confirmed — in one simple sentence — that she got it.

“These are my people.”

This amazing concept anchors each of our identities. As Jews, we are in this together.

You may be a regular at services. You may be passionate about Tikun Olam — social action, and the healing of the world. You may define your Judaism through a strong connection with Israel. Others may find they are connected through the celebration of traditional Jewish holidays with family, food, and friends.

Either way, we stand under one all-embracing tent. As the words of the Shema prayer inspire us to consider — “We are one.”

And perhaps the core of this “oneness” can be found in events that will be recounted this week in synagogue, as we recite the Ten Commandments.

Over the centuries, our Sages have debated what these commandments truly mean. Can we kill during times of war? Are we allowed to break some laws, if it means saving human life? How do we respect others who are not always perfect?

Through the centuries, our tradition has debated how the written law applies to daily living. That is the “how.” Scholars dispute the actual date of events on Mount Sinai. That is the “when.”

But no one ever disputes the “what.”

In the early 1100s, the great Sage, Yehudah HaLevi wrote a book purportedly directed at a non-Jewish king. It defined what made Judaism God’s true religion, as opposed to Greek philosophy, Christianity and Islam, among other religions.

In his book, The Kuzari, released in 1140, Rabbi HaLevi points out that unlike other religions, the Ten Commandments — was not privately revealed to one individual.

Rather, our tradition was revealed to all.

Says the Torah, “You are standing today all of you before your God: the heads of your tribes, your elders and your officers — all the men of Israel; small children, women and the convert who is in the midst of your camp, from the chopper of your wood to the drawer of your water.”

Our Torah comes to all of us collectively, directly, and equally without intermediary. How we apply it, is really up to us. Rich or poor. Those who labor with their hands, or those who contribute with their minds. Women, men, children, elders, those of different backgrounds. Those who share love in different ways.

Our tradition teaches that we are there at Mount Sinai — either in person, through our DNA, or by choice.

It is why the events of last Shabbat, which thankfully ended without loss of innocent life, garnered collective Jewish attention.

While television networks dropped in from time to time, we, as Jews, desperately channel surfed hoping for a glimmer of hope — news of a peaceful resolution.

We were all at Colleyville.

Just as up to three million souls gathered 3,300 years ago to hear God and Moses deliver a series of commandments — which would forever change western society — we were also there as we experienced the pogroms, the Holocaust — and now combating the rise in anti-Semitism.

Sadly, we are also there to account when one of us commits heinous acts of dishonesty and immorality Epstein, Weinstein, Madoff. Like it or not, we are the chosen people during both good and bad times.

But here is the good news. We are part of the solution.

With 22 percent of Nobel prizes to date awarded to those of Jewish background, we are leading the way in healing this often unjust and fractured world: curing diseases, saving the environment, improving the way we communicate, serving our communities and our country.

There is no country like Israel, which has advanced more medical, environment and technological breakthroughs during the last decade.

The Ten Commandments — a radical concept for its time — was revealed, not privately to one person, but publicly to an entire people.

Each of us shares in this revelation, for each of us carries a spark of God within. We experience it each time we breathe. We revel in it when we witness the rising or setting sun, the birth of a child, or the sound of five-part harmony.

This is still a wonderful world.

Indeed, our tradition believes that the answer to many of this world’s challenges does not lay within the hands of one person or one point of view — for our tradition teaches that human leadership is flawed. 

Nor are we meant to be bystanders. Rather, our calling is to build and promote peace in part by building bridges with other religions and cultures, to spread our message of kindness, compassion, and justice.

As Elisheva exited the mikvah onto the cold streets of Manhattan, we asked her, “How was it?

She answered, “It was refreshing.” Her words were few, but her glow was unmistakable.

She was there in spirit thousands of years ago at Mount Sinai, and was spiritually rebooted this past Monday.

Each of us, in our way, can advance the chain of revelation that began at Mount Sinai, and continues through our actions to this day.

Indeed, through good and challenging times, a spark of God resides in each of us. We can make a difference each time we act or speak.

Mostly for good — but as was the case this past Shabbat, also during difficult times.

As Yehudah HaLevi reminded those around him 900 years ago, we received the message together, and we stand together. In spite of the hatred which sometimes surrounds us, we cannot give up the hope, nor the fight.

This is more than ideology. The Torah tells us that the answers to the challenges of the world are right in front of us. Each one of us can make a difference no one higher or lower.

None of us is perfect, but as the Torah will remind this us, this Shabbat, “We are all in this together.”

Welcome Elisheva, as you voiced the words inspired by God thousands of years ago, and which remain at the heart of each Jew — and now you.

“These are my people.”

Shabbat shalom, v’kol tuv.

Rabbi Irwin Huberman

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Tue, July 5 2022 6 Tammuz 5782