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Sermon: Parshat Bamidbar, 5/22/20

05/26/2020 09:38:31 AM


Rabbi Charlie

Shabbat Shalom!

In moments of stress our vision tends to focus on our immediate needs. When Adam and Eve get kicked out of the Garden, they have to learn about the harsh reality of our world. They focus on what’s right in front of them. When the Israelites are fleeing from Egypt and the sea parts, they focus on what’s right in front of them. And in this week’s Torah portion – Bamidbar, the beginning of the Book of Numbers - when we’re starting to make plans to conquer the Land of Israel, we focus on what’s right in front of us.

We take a census of the fighting men. That’s who’s counted. Women are not counted, older men are not counted, men with disabilities are not counted, children are not counted. The immediate need is an army and while our vision narrows, we also missed quite a bit.

One the one hand, this is normal. When we’re stressed, we have to prioritize. We have to make sure the basic necessities are covered. And for a lot of us, that’s what we’ve been doing during our current crisis. We’re focusing on our job or finding a job. We’re focusing on our children and our families and their needs. We’re focusing on our own health and wellbeing. We’re focusing on passing the time when so much of our normal has ceased for the time being. We’ve been in crisis mode.

Our challenge is that we can’t stay in crisis mode forever and it appears that this crisis will not allow us to return to the familiar any time soon. Because of that, it’s important to be able to lift our heads up and see beyond our own four walls. When we do so we might find that we missed quite a bit. Here are a few things that you might have missed…

Israel, after three elections, finally has a stable government. They’ve been trying to navigate through the pandemic, security concerns, economic concerns and more – with uncertainty in leadership – so it’s a real positive that the deadlock has been broken. At the same time, for the first time, a sitting Prime Minister – Bibi Netanyahu – has been indicted on corruption charges and the trial begins Sunday. Israel is looking into the possibility of annexing the West Bank, Abbas has threatened to retaliate by ending all peace agreements with Israel and this is only adding to uncertainty in the Middle East.

You may have heard that this pandemic has caused insecurity for the institutions that have been the foundation of Jewish life in America. I’m reading articles questioning the future of Jewish denominations and Jewish philanthropy. The Union for Reform Judaism had to cut 20% of its staff and furloughs are expected this summer. Greene Family Camp is going through major financial challenges. The institutions that provided my Rabbinical Education and the resources that make me a better rabbi for this congregation every day are in distress and need help.

One of those institutions is the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. If you’re still following the news, President Trump and Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, have made headlines recently about not wanting people to vote by mail. When we think about the uncertainty of this pandemic and the need to vote in July and in November, it’s important to ask, “what does a safe, fair, effective election look like?” RAC-TX, the Reform Movement’s statewide advocacy branch was able to ask that question to Heider Garcia, Tarrant County’s Election Administrator. Our own Mary Clark was a part of that conversation. In that initial conversation, we learned that our Election Administrator is trying to keep politics out of our elections process. They are expecting an increase in voting by mail, but it would be physically impossible for them to do that for everyone. Garcia’s concerned with practical solutions to the problems we’re facing - stressing that they were going to need more polling workers and were asking for help. If you’re interested in learning more about this process, let me know.

And of course, it’s important to note that when we pick our heads up and look around, CBI is going to need some help. We’re doing alright. And for us to keep doing alright and to help us support each other and stay connected to each other, we need you. We are going to need volunteers and for those who can afford it, we’re going to need funds. If you have questions about how to help, talk with me or our Board.

When we lift our heads up and look beyond our own four walls, it turns out that even though it can feel like it sometimes, the world hasn’t stopped. There’s a lot going on. Sometimes it’s troubling, especially when so much of the news isn’t what we’d hope for. That just means that we need to pay attention. To look up when we feel we can – for how else will we know that we’re needed to offer support. For during a crisis, our vision can narrow. And during a crisis, a little bit of help can have the most profound impact.

Shabbat Shalom.

Mon, January 25 2021 12 Sh'vat 5781