Yom Shabbat, 29 Heshvan 5778
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Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah--Chukat

No one is above the law … Or at least no one should be. Torah presents us with a system of justice that treats all people as equals; no matter from where they come, how they pray, love or vote, their respective gender orientation, and certainly, who they are.

So many times, we read stories about how God gets fed up with the people and sends some plague or disaster against them. No, these are not histories, the texts are not to be read literally, and each story contains valuable insights into human frailties. This week, we experience a new phenomenon. Moses gets in trouble.

While wandering in the wilderness, the people grew thirsty. God instructed Moses to speak to a rock and instruct rock to send forth water. Moses was frustrated with all of the whining. Instead of speaking to the rock, he struck it with his staff. The rock brought water, but it was excessively bitter. For blaspheming against God (disobeying), God decreed that Moses must lead the people to the banks of the Jordan, but may not cross over into the “Promised Land” Even Moses is not above the law.

So, fast forward thousands of years. We live in a world where many people believe that they are unaccountable to others or to the organic societal systems that exist to protect the dignity of all life. Whether we speak about politics and governance, religious hierarchy and supersessionism, racism and gender inequality, or any place in society wherein we believe (or practice) that the rules apply only to others, in each case, the value of life is at risk. Even Moses had to play by the rules.

When we fail to remember each other’s dignity, we commit ourselves to societal destruction.

Bob Dylan spoke it best:

“Ahh princess on a steeple and all the pretty people; they're all drinking, thinking that they've got it made. Exchanging all precious gifts, but you better take your diamond ring, you better pawn it babe. You used to be so amused at Napoleon in rags and the language that he used. Go to him he calls you, you can't refuse. When you ain't got nothing, you got nothing to lose. You're invisible now, you've got no secrets to conceal.”

It takes so little effort to remember that we are each made of the very same stuff. It takes so little effort to be mindful that we all pray to a God (the same God) who created each of us the very same way. Whether one believes in a supernatural deity or simply controlling forces of nature, we all bleed the same blood.

Whatever our prejudice and fear, our need to be better than another roots in our own insecurities and not in the “danger of the other,” until that fear drives the other to respond dangerously. All people need to spend more time learning and engaging, and less time spouting and fearing. If you want peace, we all must play by the same rules. It really is just that simple. Shabbat Shalom.