Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Nitzavim-Vayeilech

We have to remember that if a hole exists under your seat in the rowboat, I am going to sink. Faith depends on my knowing that we are mutually dependent. The day I dismiss your dignity; I sink with you.

This week the Torah’s message is simple. God says (through Moses), “You are all standing this day before the Lord, your God … to establish you this day as His people, and that He will be your God … But not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath, but with those standing here with us today before the Lord, our God, and [also] with those who are not here with us, this day.”

There is no covenant with one that is not with another. The text goes on to say that even those who reject or spurn God never get left out. I find it unintelligible that people can tie themselves so closely to Scripture and, at the same time, so blatantly dismiss each other’s dignity. They cast people out from God as if they were the select gatekeepers.

We are near the end of the Torah cycle and find ourselves on the cusp of the High Holy Days. What will make this year different? How will we read the prayers that remind us to honor our community, to let go of baggage, and to return to God and to each other, when we willfully disregard this most fundamental tenet of faith? It is for me to love my neighbor, whether we agree or disagree – whether or not I like my neighbor. We must figure out how to protect each other’s dignity and humanity as we work through our differences. We may never agree. We may never agree vehemently. No one issue or set of issues demeans the entire human – unless we let that happen.

The late David Applefield was running for Congress. He went everywhere to meet people. In those places where they sought to dismiss him because of his affiliation, he responded, “look, there are so many ideas upon which we can agree, let’s start there. We love our children, right?” I loved how he turned hearts – maybe not heads – but most certainly hearts.

The covenant is ours to share, not ours to own. We need to remember the lessons we teach our children, play fair, and be nice in the sandbox. For us – the world is God’s giant sandbox. Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom!