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Sermon: Parshat Matot-Masei, 7/17/20

07/23/2020 09:02:54 AM


Rabbi Charlie

To see the recording of Rabbi Charlie's sermon, please click HERE.

Shabbat Shalom!

This week we reach the end of the Book of Numbers and say, “Chazak, Chazak, V’nitchazeik – be strong, be strong, and let us strengthen each other.” We need to be strong – we need to care for ourselves and we need to strengthen one another – we need to care for others. We see this in our Torah reading.

The tribes of Reuven and Gad had a lot of cattle. They saw lots of grazing land and a good place to live on the west side, the Jordan side of the Jordan river – outside of the Land of Israel. So, they went to Moses to ask for that land. What was Moses’ reaction? He was NOT happy!

Moses is thinking – we’ve been on a forty-year journey to the Promised Land. I don’t get to enter the Promised Land. And now these cowards just want to stay back? Are you kidding? If gaskets had been invented, Moses would have blown one.

The Reubenites and Gadites get Moses to calm down so that they can explain that they are not just looking out for number one. They are willing to help conquer the land – not only that – they’ll be on the front line. While they want to care for themselves, they are not abandoning their People. They know they need to care for others. They stress that it’s not an us/them situation – it’s ultimately about us.

I’m missing that. We are in the midst of a three week period of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av – the 9th of Av – the saddest day of the Jewish calendar. We recall the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem and all the horrible things that have befallen our people. But right now, I’m mourning the loss of that sense of “us”.

COVID – it’s us vs. them. Going back to school – it’s us vs. them. Racism – it’s us vs. them. Antisemitism – it’s us vs. them. Politics – it’s worse than us vs. them - it feels like a war. And what’s the result? We’re all suffering, but it’s like we can only see our own pain.

Perhaps I’m naïve. Perhaps the idea that we’re all created in God’s image doesn’t mean what I think it means. Perhaps Hillel, instead of saying, “What is hateful to you, do not do to another,” meant to sum up the Torah with, “What is hateful to you, don’t do to people who agree with you, but if they don’t agree – who cares.” Us vs. them…

I am missing “us” – the sense that we’re all in this together. One of my favorite moments from this past week was when I spoke with one of our college students. She’s one of the only Jewish women in her sorority and she called because her sisters were concerned for her after hearing about some of the Antisemitic statements that had been made over the past two weeks. They wanted to created a list of resources and wanted her advice.

It was amazing. Before she could even ask for support, her friends were reaching out – and not just to offer support – they wanted to learn and understand and create change. We were being attacked and those young women who were not Jewish felt that sense that we’re all in this together. That sense of “us” resulted in the most beautiful kind of support.

We have to care for us and we want other people to care for us, too. We all need that support. Black people need that support. People who have lost their jobs or don’t have enough resources need that support. People who are sick or have lost loved ones need that support. People who are healthy and frustrated by all the COVID restrictions need that support. And for every group that you’re thinking of – but Rabbi, what about… they probably need that support, too. There is far too much suffering. Combined with far too much blaming, excusing, and avoiding, and not enough problem solving – there’s a reason why life is hard right now.

 The good news – in this toxic political climate, Republicans and Democrats and President Trump came together to pass trillions of dollars in legislation to support “us.” Of course it wasn’t perfect, but it helped keep us afloat! And soon, God willing, they are going to do it again.

Bring back the sense of “us”. Care for others and we care for ourselves. For what is hateful to us we should not do to any other person and every human being was created in God’s image.

Shabbat Shalom!


Mon, January 25 2021 12 Sh'vat 5781