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Rabbi's Message

01/17/2020 08:53:07 AM


Dear chevreh,

There is a dispute in the Talmud between Ben Zoma and the Sages where Ben Zoma wonders if when the Messiah arrives whether the Exodus from Egypt-- a foundational narrative to the Jewish people--will still be mentioned, citing a verse from Jeremiah’s prophecy which could be read to suggest that it won’t. The Sages reject this claim and say to him that these verses do not mean that in the future the Exodus from Egypt will be uprooted from its place and will be mentioned no more. Rather, redemption from the subjugation of the kingdoms will be primary and the Exodus from Egypt will be secondary. (Berakhot, 12b)

Could there some day be an event that puts Yetziat Mizrayim in perspective, so that we aren’t always referring to coming out of Egypt into freedom as our main narrative story, or at least that puts it in the background? Could it be for each of us that there is enough time in our lives lived further away from our pains and traumatic incidents, fresh events unfurling over time, which can stand rightfully in the place of presence so that the narrow places and pain still has its respected place, the freedom still certainly is not taken for granted, but that other narratives about our life, about our people, come to the fore?


Last evening I attended the first POWER event where, having chosen our two topics to focus on for now, getting out the vote and confronting structural racism in Pennsylvania public school funding, I was struck by the words of the host. Rev. Kevin Jagoe, of the BuxMont Universalist Unitarian Fellowship. He said that what we were doing there--coming together as people of faith in power to address racism and to pursue justice and compassion--is not common. If it were common, he said, there would be no need for religion, or for a group of people like ourselves gathering. Right. If it were common to act with justice and compassion in mind, taking in the true and potent teaching of all of our traditions (and last evening, with not even a huge crowd, represented there was at least Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Quakerism, Unitarianism, and several Christian denominations, black, brown and white people), grossly unequal amounts of funding broken down into racial groups would statistically not just appear from nowhere nor would it persist.


No, we have to be the ones who see clearly, who act righteously, who continue to live out of the framework of our foundational Exodus story, which begins again this Shabbat. This story of freedom is still necessary, pertinent and vibrant. Someday, perhaps, in another time, one in which we have begun to absorb ourselves over time in justice and compassion, another story can come to replace it at the center stage of humanity, but for now, all we need to do is look around in our own communities, at our nation, in our world, and we know that dreams of messianic times are quite far away.


Living in America, we are marinaded in racism and injustice. That’s common. What is not common is seeing it clearly, sitting in the discomfort. Yet there has always been another strain, a song of justice being carried along in our county as well. Can we dip into the heroes and sheroes of social justice movements, which have also always been a part of our Jewish people, of our nation? Can we drink from the wells of justice that we have right in Judaism’s core and remember how to act in the presence of the Holy One, all of us being created in the Divine image? Can we continue to work on our own personal pains and narrow places to heal ourselves so that we can thrive and so that our lenses can be clear enough to work towards justice and bring about messianic times? We have work to do.


May we all have the strength and courage to envision the world as it could be and to act on it.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Diana

Tue, July 27 2021 18 Av 5781