Rabbi Marc Kline's thoughts and views on this week's Parashah!
There was a time in our history when the sagest advice one could give the next generation was simply, “Keep a bag packed and your passport always updated.” When I hear people speak of these days, it seems so odd, almost terrifying. The phrase seems to admit that we are still only sojourning nomads in the world.
In America, we have experienced the blessing of over 300 years of existence; longer than the life of the nation, itself. We exist as an intricate part of the very fabric of American society: serving, flourishing and thriving in every facet of American living. Many claim that we have found (as Hermann Cohen put it) “Jerusalem,” a land where we can live in freedom and fulfill our destiny of bringing peace to the world.
And then, since January, America has witnessed 190 reported acts of terrorizing Anti-Semitism. Of them were 100 bomb threats that targeted American Jewish Community Centers. Vandals attacked at least three Jewish Cemeteries in the same time frame. Government response is under dispute. Hours before denouncing Anti-Semitic violence before the Senate and Congress, the White House tweeted that the bomb threats and cemetery vandalisms were perpetrated by the victims to make the White House look bad. The day after the inauguration, the White House removed the webpage for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and the budget sustaining it (as per the 2004 Act of Congress) is on the list to be deleted. Then, a bullet hole ws found in the window of an Indiana synagogue religious school.
I opened the Bible to this week’s portion and the first thing I read made me put the book down for a moment. God instructs Moses to build the most lavish of structures; lining everything with gold overlay. God is describing the most beautiful of sanctuary structures around which all the tribes of Israel encamp. The Tabernacle serves as the focal point for all happenings in the community. To look at this structure, one would have to believe that the people and it were there to stay. But, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
The Tabernacle has to be portable so that Israel can dismantle it and move it whenever God said that it was time to move on. This text was just too poignant to ignore, as fear mongers seem to delight in the terroristic threats and acts that they perpetrate on us, hoping to dismantle our American lives. Despite all of the madness, I had to admit that this text, this week … emboldened my resolve.
My home is my sanctuary. My synagogue is the worship and gathering home for hundreds of families. There are thousands of homes and synagogues just like mine in this nation. Ours are not portable sanctuaries. Our homes and synagogues, our community centers and schools are right where we belong. As I read the Torah portion, I had to shake my head. Torah speaks of the time in the wilderness; a time before we had found a home. As Gertrude Stein put it, “There is no there, there.” There is, however, a here and a now.
Amidst the nightmarish news and the lack of overt governmental support, we know that we do not stand alone. We have thousands of Jewish sanctuaries bolstering each other. Our Muslim siblings, themselves suffering horrific and ignored violence are running to our aid. So many of our Christian siblings began Lent this week with a call to arms in solidarity will Muslim and Jewish communities under attack.
In the wilderness, we lived insecure lives. In our homes and our sanctuaries, we will live insecurely only so long as we let those who perpetuate this madness win. It is time for us to stand together and gather our tents and our resolve.
Next week, we will celebrate Purim. One of the great lessons of the holiday is that since God never overtly appears in the story, salvation is ours to make real. It took a lot of faith for Esther to stand up. Sages teach that it was not God who made her stand up, but it was God who gave her the strength to do so. Meetings, rallies, marches, and gatherings are happening all around. Go and meet your neighbor. Stand with your neighbor. Appreciate and respect your neighbor. You will earn their appreciation and respect in return. We will not return decency and security into our lives by screaming at each other, but the more of us who engage with each other … creates a world with fewer of those who refuse to. Shabbat Shalom.