Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Matot-Masei

“You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I Myself abide, for I the Lord abide among the Israelite people.’” (Numbers 35:34.)

You know how all sorts of folks claim that this is a religious country, how the Bible governs, and how God speaks through scripture? Now, I believe that we are people of faith. We believe in all sorts of things that we cannot empirically prove. I do not believe, however, that this is the same as religion. Call me and we can discuss it further. That said, for all the people who hold the Bible as the supreme authority, I have to reflect on the above text from this week’s Torah portion.

God says not to defile the land. Why has this administration gutted the EPA and destroyed the many protective laws that protect our environment?

Why are we treating the stranger so horrifically, when the Bible says, over and over again, that we are to protect the rights, sanctity, and safety of the stranger?

How can we justify a system that accepts poverty as an “okay” reality? Many argue that the government should not bear the burden of ending poverty; that houses of worship should do that. Ok, but in this uber-religious framework, affiliation in houses of worship is dying. The ones that are strong (Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Pat Robertson, etc.) don’t have poverty ministries. They buy jets for their clergy.

How can we pray for peace and watch (or participate) as our neighbors suffer discrimination and bigoted based violence? Is it Godly to say that there are good people who promote violence (from the right or the left), and scream at only the political side with whom we don’t affiliate? Can we, in good conscience, point fingers at the others with blame, when our schools, communities, and public places are being shot up by white men?? How can we pray for peace and health in the name of a loving God, and let people go without medical care, living wages, adequate shelter, or safe schools?

If love is a family value, how do we elect leaders on their third or fourth marriages, where the earlier ones ended in their own infidelity?

How can we argue that our education system is “God based,” when the school to prison pipeline is out of control, when our teachers have to take second jobs to stay above poverty, when we do away with the funding the arts, but build new sports stadiums?

How can someone claim to be “pro-life” while they let children who are already alive squander in orphanages, in poverty, in ill health, or in any living hell?

I think we are lost in faith and too arrogant to look in the spiritual mirror. Would Jesus want you to call your Black neighbor the “N” word; especially when Jesus was a man of color and not white, himself? Would Moses or Mohammed condone attacking the weakest amongst us; or ignoring the pleas for help from the widow, the orphan, or the stranger?

How can we pray, and do nothing to honor the words emanating from our mouths? Do our ears really hear, do our hearts really feel the words uttered by our lips?

We cannot continue on this path that only throws us politically against each other with little or no respect for the “religious” values that we espouse.

People need to ask themselves if their holy scripture would allow the language, the behaviors, the disdain with which too many use to segregate from each other, ripping apart the fabric of our nation. I pray that we should all take a step back and see if our behaviors comport with an unconditional love of which all people of faith describe God. Shabbat shalom.