Yom Sheini, 4 Adar 5778
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Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Health Dose of Torah--B'shalach

People are upset. Whichever the political ideology under which one falls, people are upset. No one is happy with the other side, and many not thrilled with their own. I stay puzzled and stuck in the reality that this great nation, founded upon the primacy of the people’s power and rights, should be mired in so much distrust and apathy. We take pride in being part of a community that stands up for justice, and while we have differing opinions on what makes something just or unjust, our tradition is to talk and share, and mutually grow. Most, unfortunately, most of the time, now, we jump to our own conclusion and then defend it against all others … often to the point of physical and/or emotional violence. Everyone complains about the tenor of our discourse. I have yet to hear anyone say that they like the way we are treating each other. We don’t do anything to fix the problems or to undo our anxiety against each other (or with the tenor of discourse), we just continue to scream at or dismiss each other.People are upset. Whichever the political ideology under which one falls, people are upset. No one is happy with the other side, and many not thrilled with their own. I stay puzzled and stuck in the reality that this great nation, founded upon the primacy of the people’s power and rights, should be mired in so much distrust and apathy. We take pride in being part of a community that stands up for justice, and while we have differing opinions on what makes something just or unjust, our tradition is to talk and share, and mutually grow. Most, unfortunately, most of the time, now, we jump to our own conclusion and then defend it against all others … often to the point of physical and/or emotional violence. Everyone complains about the tenor of our discourse. I have yet to hear anyone say that they like the way we are treating each other. We don’t do anything to fix the problems or to undo our anxiety against each other (or with the tenor of discourse), we just continue to scream at or dismiss each other.

It is with great relevancy that I read this week’s Torah portion. Amongst the many story lines included in it is the one about the Amalekites. As the children of Israel left Egypt and crossed the sea, the Amalekites attacked them from the rear flanks, nipping off the elderly and the children who could not keep up. The war that ensued witnessed Israel strength’s and abilities as they fought back the stronger adversary. The harshest difficulty that Israel faced was the destitution of its soul. So long as the soldiers could see Moses’s arms in the air cheering on the troops they waged miraculous battles, though they were outnumbered. When Moses’ arms fell to his side, exhausted from having held them up, the spirit of the troops fell, as well. Joshua and Caleb had to prop his arms up to keep the troops strong.
Every Israelite knew that this was a life and death war, an existential threat to the entire peoplehood. Families and children were at risk. Despite this harsh realization, it took an outside force, Moses’ arms waving, to motivate them to battle more intently.

I just returned from Israel. I led a group of 20 clergy on a mission to see what is happening there, debunking the agenda of myths of apartheid or unparalleled perfection in governance. Israel is a political being and is a blessing and still has enormous challenges. 

I had a conversation with a colleague there that this trip was Moses’ arms. The “Amalekites” are the one’s trying to hijack all Israel conversations into one extreme or the other. Where we are not vigilant to let people know that we are working hard to present more normal conversation, madness ensues. 
This same truth describes everything from our conversations on race, immigration, government, the National Football League, gender equality and orientation, and religion. Whether we believe that the people should know better, as we would have hoped with the Biblical Israelites fighting Amalek, we need to be the arms of hope held high. We need to talk with, work with, engage with, love with and listen to one in each other with a sense of radical amazement and always open hearts. It worked, it works, and it will work; opening up to each other is the path of hope into peace. For all who need the constant reminder, we need to keep our game face on and lovingly look forward to each new day. Shabbat Shalom.