Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–B’haalot’cha

There comes a time when one has to take a step back and assess the path he travels. We really do try to walk a moderate and linear path from episode “a” to episode “b” along life’s journey. We walk through our daily existences and pray to make it to bedtime unscathed and prepared for the next day. Life happens, but sometimes there is too much stimulus pulling at us in different directions that we have no idea whether or not we are still on task. Too often, even as we try our best not to veer from this norm, we get caught up in the groundswell of things around us and do not even see how far from “norm” we have traveled. Detours are normal; often there are obstacles on the road that we need to avoid. Some detours end up providing us with incredible stories; other overwhelming challenges. When avoiding the obstacles becomes the new “norm,” we are in trouble. When it is the new “norm” for society, we are … all … in trouble. Well, I fear that we are all headed for trouble.

Despite the many dark times throughout history, we undauntedly remain prisoners of hope. Tradition reminds us that in the face of every blessing we affirm life, and in the face of every challenge, we find a way to choose life. No outside influence can take control of our personal sense of “shalom,” unless we let it.

Face it; we live amongst people who allow themselves to devolve toxically. For a host of reasons, they forgot to see the bigger picture. They are stuck in their personal struggles and, of course, we know that misery loves company. This toxicity fuels the ugliness that we see play out in the news; the murders, the hateful politics, the racism: all of it. With each act of hate, even the most hopeful of us must take a sobering step back, and when we pick sides and buy into the rhetoric of partisan politics, we find ourselves taking horrible detours from the path of moderation without even realizing how far we strayed. We see this breakdown in the couple who stopped communicating effectively and one day find that they live with a total stranger. We see this antipathy with the religious zealot who gets so caught up in his own dogma that he alienates other of God’s children. We saw this with the California pastor who argued that the real tragedy of Orlando was that the shooter did not kill more gay people. We find this toxicity in the organization so stuck in “this is the way we have always done it,” that they close their doors clinging fast to how wrong the rest of the world is. We find it in the victim of abuse who continues to cycle back into abusive relationships.

It is time for us to take a proactive step back. We have to look at ourselves and each other and determine what is really at stake. Why would God want to kill people of different religions, colors, orientations, or citizenships? We read sacred scriptures reminding us that we are inter-related, and then let others teach us that some are more so than others. We profess to love a national constitution that determines love, marriage, opportunity, and equality to be inalienable rights, and then tirelessly work to alienate people other than ourselves from these rights. How do we, as people of faith, support this ugliness? Whatever one believes about religion, sexuality, national origin, or a host of “hot button” topics, how do we justify hurting each other in an effort to serve a loving God? The news challenges one’s ability to believe. An intentional step back could help us realize how we have let toxic people and their propaganda control our lives, our thoughts, and our decisions. We need a step back to look at each other and realize that we are not Republicans or Democrats; we are not Jews, Christians, or Muslims; we are not male or female, gay or straight, resident or alien. We are children of the very same God and the madness that separates us; that finds us alienated from each other results from our toxic fears, not God’s love.

This week we learn that Moses married a Cushite woman. We know that Aaron and Miriam (his siblings) could not bring themselves to celebrate his finding love. Their racism brandished hate against their brother. God punished them for this hate, sending a pretty clear message: our religious traditions do not allow for that behavior. Those who hate are themselves cast out and afflicted. It’s time we took an intentional step back to look at each other. We have so much more to share and grow than our fears will let us admit, and yet, if we do not figure it out, we will become lepers as did Miriam, and silently affirm the ugliness as our family falls apart, as did Aaron. And, like Moses, we will be left alone and without each other; without anyone. I want us to choose life … with and for each other. I want us to remember that we share this world, and while I cannot tell you what God is, I have to believe that sharing it lovingly is part of the divine plan. Put down the emotional and spiritual weapons we point at each other. Put aside the need to win the war of ego and aggression. We do not ever have to agree; we do have to dignify each other even and especially when we disagree. I am tired and weary of praying for peace. We need to do something to engage differently. From the little-known group The Youngbloods, “Come on people now, smile on your brother, everybody get together … time to love one another right now.” Shabbat Shalom.