Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah – Shof’tim

I am struggling. I read the Bible, and I scratch my head. What part of this stuff don’t people get? In pretty explicit language, this week’s Torah portion instructs us to appoint judges and police officers who are not buyable and who will maintain order in the best interest of all of society – including the widow, orphan, and stranger. The text instructs us, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdoff! Justice, justice, you must pursue it.” From the Prophets, we read (Micah 6:8), “God has told you what God wants – Do justice love mercy, walk humbly with God.” The New Testament echoes this call, “Grant Justice and do what is fair.” (Colossians 4:1) Further, Matthew (25:40) says, “Whatever you did for the least these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” The Quran continues the thread, simply put, “Say: “My Lord has commanded justice…” (Surat al-A ‘raf, 29).

I think it is pretty clear that our traditions (the Eastern traditions speak likewise), “Take care of everybody. There is no justice when only some of us matter.” I look at society and find the “justice” is only a matter of partisan politics. To talk about the weakest or targeted amongst us is now the Democratic Party platform, while God is protecting those who pander to the elitists.

Where did Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad ever say that ignoring the needy was ok? Letting people starve and go homeless is not criminal, but it is a mortal sin. Scripture says so. Jesus healed the lepers. They could not afford health care – it did not matter. How can you emulate Jesus and be against health care for all? In Torah, we hate the Amalekites because they waged war against us by attacking the weak and elderly first. Torah instructs us to write them out of existence for preying on the weak. How can someone be faithful and allow the poverty surrounding us to spread? Even this Pope (Francis) washes the feet of the homeless.

The Rabbis teach, “Do your ears hear what your mouth is saying?” How about these? These are the debates playing out in public discourse. Some claim, “You can’t make me get a vaccine. You can’t make me wear a mask. I have rights protecting my body from your intrusion.” At the same time, the same voice says, “A woman cannot make decisions about her own body and health.”

By the way, if you are infected and not wearing a mask and breathe on me, intruding on my body, you may have just committed murder. A local politician threatened to want to do this to “liberals.” on Facebook last week. Is this where leadership has devolved?

Mitch McConnell saying “We will say ‘NO’ to anything President Obama says” is wrong. Chuck Schumer says, “We will say ‘NO’ to anything President Trump says” must also be wrong.

A vocal movement claims that mail voting should be illegal. The President just registered to vote by mail. The infirm must vote by mail. Soldiers overseas and students away at school vote by mail.

In New Jersey, parties endorse specific candidates months before even the primary election. How can that make for a fair vote?

I am not asking everyone to agree, but I am asking for honest conversation and consistency. Pursuing justice requires that we get past the propaganda on either side and past the rhetoric. We need to have conversations about why we feel so strongly and how we can make decisions that a. comply with our Constitution; b. create care plans for everyone in our society; and c. remember that politics is about power – people wanting power over other people.

There has to be a better way. Maybe people run from religion because the messages preached from scripture end up being antithetical to the way in which “believing” people behave. I was shocked (but should not have been) when a person attending services once said (in response to scriptures call for caring for the stranger) that Torah was old and didn’t matter anymore. I think it is time to rethink why we are here. Let’s get back to remembering that God created each of us in God’s image. Whatever that is, or it means, it does mean that each of us is divine and deserves dignity.

Shabbat Shalom!