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

It is not uncommon that I write two or three pieces, throwing each away, before I figure out the exact message I want to convey, and how to convey it. This week: well, this is draft number five. So much happened this week. I am outraged over what is happening in Washington, not the least of which at a White House calling to dismantle our judiciary because it will not let our President defy the constitution. I am appalled that the Mississippi Assembly voted to reinstate firing squads and gas chambers. The list across America goes on; this was just the last two days. Accuse me of being political if you need, but have a conversation with me about it … not shout at me … or about me with someone else. It is specifically because we are not talking with each other that these things spiral out of control.

Our nation is in trouble, and the only saving grace I see is that people who would not have come together in common voice before are rethinking our estrangement from each other. Diverse people are flocking to each other’s sides in droves.

Last Friday, hundreds of us joined in celebrating Juma with the Middletown Mosque and guarding their building during prayer. I stood with clergy and laity from across the spectrum. I met people who said that they had never been near a mosque but knew that this was the time to show those who are in need that we care.

Last week, I was invited to speak at the New Jersey Muslim Coalition’s gathering in Paterson, NJ. My heart soared, as speakers from all walks of life spoke of the need to see each other as a friend, a sibling, a sacred partner walking with us through life. The Regional Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) spoke about the pain she felt not just in the hatred expressed by our government towards Muslims, but also towards Jews, Homosexuals, Hispanics, and African Americans. Ministers spoke. Another Rabbinic colleague joined me. Imams and a Sheik spoke. Many people spoke, sharing the same unifying voice.

This week, Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and Renewal Rabbis gathered for a weekend-long symposium on justice and righteousness, and then all walked together (male and female Rabbis) through the streets of New York to continue the conversation on immigration bans.

These are but a handful of thousands of gatherings happening across this great country. Some gather dozens of people, and some gather thousands. This collision of love and respect for each other is the foundation of faith and the messianic vision of peace for which this nation is supposed to stand. If we do not have the faith and courage to stand up boldly, we will lose, and our lives will be forever compromised.

It happens that this week’s Torah portion teaches this exact lesson. Pharaoh gave in to Moses, Aaron, and God and let Israel go free after the tenth plague. His heart hardened, though. He gathered his armies and chased Israel to the shores of the sea. His intent was to kill many and carry the rest back into slavery. Trapped between Egypt’s army of chariots and drowning in the sea, all seemed lost. Giving into Pharaoh meant certain death. They took a leap of faith and went into the sea, and the water parted. Had the people not had the courage and faith to stand up and make a difference, we would not be here writing or reading this statement, today. For so many who are gathering together, this is the first time they have engaged someone who they used to see as “the other” amongst their “normal” world. 12 diverse tribes and many Egyptians and “others” walked into the water together. I can’t read this and not have hope. Shabbat shalom.