Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah -Emor

I have seven children. Five are mine, and two are my wife’s. They are all incredibly unique. The one thing they all have in common, though, is that growing up, they needed lots of reminders – they grow their habits and priorities from our parenting. Redundancy matters for reinforcement.

At the same time, we all know of the stories where divorced parents use children as weapons – indoctrinating them to the evils of the other parent – alienating parents and children. I know parent political views because of the rhetoric their children espouse – without knowing or understanding anything beyond “this is the way it is.”

Of course, on the public stage, we know that repeated messaging walks this same tightrope. On the one hand, repeated messaging about safety precautions, educational or employment opportunities, or the like become necessary to make sure that people hear and understand what’s at stake.

At the same time, when we manipulate facts, the repeated messaging of false “truths” convinces even knowledgeable and caring people through thoughtfulness and veracity to the wind, accepting the “gospel;” facts that serve only to ensure someone’s power and authority. We call this propaganda.
In light of the polarizing political rhetoric on almost any topic these days, the first line of this week’s Torah portion struck me in the oddest of ways. “Adonai said to Moses: Speak to the kohanim (priests), the sons of Aaron, and say to them:”

In the opinion of many scholars the repetitive wording (“speak” and “say”) is nothing more than poetic symmetry. In as much as Torah is an ever-evolving document, the simplicity of prosaic form argument just does not resonate with me this week. Admittedly, my thoughts on this are colored by what may be an over-sensitivity to our current tone of conversation. I am, by no means, the first to wrestle with this redundancy. Roughly one thousand years ago, the great sage Rashi authored a series of commentaries on Torah redundancies. Here, he specifically asked why God instructs Moses to speak twice in one sentence. While he went off on a tangent about the phrase containing hidden messages for the priests, he acknowledged that the redundancy itself made an emphatic statement from God that would not have born wait had God simply said, “Moses, Tell the priests …”

As I read this text; I keep hearing politicians tell me what I have to believe to be an American. I hear “religious” leaders preaching that if you don’t see God their way, you must be aligned with Satan. Now aside from the reality that I don’t believe in Satan and I am an American, the number of people who actually buy into the propaganda and proclaim it to be the one and only truth is astounding. They then defend their truth, as its life itself depended on it.

Every major conflict through history began with convincing the masses that a single truth exists to exclude all others. Power mongers leave no room in a conversation for validating a dissenting or divergent opinion. Whether it means putting shackles on the constitution or putting God in chains, people want to win the debate at all costs.

We have to be very careful in communicating ideas. We have to more careful in how we perceive the messages that we hear and read. Here is what I know and believe: when we hear/read things that separate us as “better than” someone else who proclaims to be “worse than,” we are in trouble. If we can only prove our value by diminishing someone else’s, we commit fraud. There is room for each of us to flourish respectfully. We must take time to discern what we say and what we hear. The redundancy can provide the blessing or the curse. Where it does not provide the blessing, it needs to be left behind.

Shabbat Shalom.