Recognize the Darkness and Offer Light- This is no Time for Neutrality

 

See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.

ורְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה:
Deu 11:26

 

Over the last couple of days it feels like a curse is threatening our society. We have been watching TV, reading newspapers, hearing stories from friends…. The images and the stories coming from Charlottesville in 2017 look like the mingle of a fiction and a horror story or for some of us, a documentary from the past. Images that many thought we will never see again.
It is hard to digest the Images of the KKK people, of the torches and the nazi flags waving in American streets. It is hard to digest that this is our reality today.
And please remember the mere attempt to convert this issue in a partisan one is an insult to the diversity of good people that hold different political views.
This is not anymore about left and Right! When Hatred represented by these groups occupies the streets the questions are about humanity, dignity, ethnic supremacy, and finally about life or death.
As Ellie Wiesel once said: “When someone says they want to kill you, believe them”.
And they waved their flags and they said the Jews will not replace us…
And they walked the streets and they saw a Synagogue so they screamed out the Nazi salute.

Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin shared about last week’s events:
My Christian clergy friends rushed me inside very quickly each time knowing that I myself could be a target. It still feels surreal that Nazis were rallying in a park literally steps away from me. At one point, a fellow clergy member called saying that he was at the scene of the attack and needed a car to take an injured young woman to the hospital. It just so happens that my husband, Geoff Schmelkin, and I park our cars in the garage across from where the attack occurred.
And so we hugged my mom and brother, both of whom were in town, took off our kippot and our tallitot, and ran out from the church. We sprinted to the garage, taking a circuitous route because so many of the streets were blocked off with police in riot gear. Geoff drove as I prayed with the shocked and traumatized victim and her friends in the back seat. On our way back from the hospital, we walked back to the church, feeling acute danger after witnessing the direct consequences of the hate that came to the town we call home.

50 years ago, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said:
ONE OF THE LESSONS we have derived from the events of our time is that we cannot dwell at ease under the sun of our civilization, that man is the least harmless of all beings. We feel how every minute in our civilization is packed with tension like the interlude between lightning and thunder. Man has not advanced very far from the coast of chaos. It took only one storm to throw him back into the sinister. If culture is to survive, it is in need of defenses all along the shore. A frantic call to chaos shrieks in our blood. Many of us are too susceptible to it to ignore it forever. Where is the power that could offset the effect of that alluring call? How are we going to keep the demonic forces under control? This is the decision which we have to make: whether our life is to be a pursuit of pleasure or an engagement for service. The world cannot remain a vacuum. Unless we make it an altar to God, it is invaded by demons. This is no time for neutrality. We Jews cannot remain aloof or indifferent. We, too, are either ministers of the sacred or slaves of evil. The only safeguard against constant danger is constant vigilance, constant guidance.
(Heschel, Abraham Joshua. Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity: Essays (p. 75). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.)

Constant vigilance….
See- ראה!
See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse.

ורְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה:

“See”—Moses is giving the children of Israel the power of sight—to perceive that the true nature of evil is nothing more than a transmutation and distortion of the divine good. When evil is thus seen, it can be transformed into the good that it essentially is.
(The Lubavitcher R)

Darkness and light are linked, they are two ends of the same value scale. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that we can fight darkness with darkness, but that assumption is a misconception. Darkness can only be fought with light. And the light is achieved when we stick to our values, when we succeed to remember our mitzvot, our obligations toward this society.
Of course, this won’t resolve the practical problem of Nazis rallying in the streets of our cities , for that we need security… We need to state that the public presence of these groups isn’t freedom of speech but freedom of hatred and incitement…
We need to state than when somebody is holding a KKK uniform or waving a Nazi flag there is no blame in both sides…. There is one side that wants to kill the other one….

We need to state that when anyboby claims any kind of human supremacy it is opposed to our values as we learn from our Rabbis z”l:

“It was for this reason that man was first created as one person [Adam], to teach you that anyone who destroys a life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed an entire world; and anyone who saves a life is as if he saved an entire world.” And al

lighthouse-2307273_960_720

so, to promote peace among the creations, that no man would say to his friend, “My ancestors are greater than yours. (Mishna Sanedrin 4-5)

Dear friends, in these days of darkness in which our beloved country is in such a need of healing, the best thing that we can offer is our Jewishness. May we find the “spiritual audacity” to recognize the darkness and offer light!

Shabbat Shalom

 

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