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Sermon: Parshat Shemot - Solidarity Shabbat, 1/17/20

01/21/2020 01:02:57 PM

Jan21

Rabbi Charlie

Each week the Jewish people read and study several chapters from the Torah. This week, we’re at the beginning of the Book of Exodus where we start off with peaceful coexistence. Jacob and Joseph and family made a home in Egypt. Famines had been managed and there was peace.

Along comes the new Pharaoh, who uses doubt and fear as an excuse for oppression. He says to his people, “The Israelites are too numerous…. Let us deal shrewdly with them… otherwise they may join our enemies in fighting against us…” (Ex. 1:9-10). Sforno, a rabbi who lived over five hundred years ago in Italy, taught that Pharaoh highlighted religious and cultural differences between the Israelites and the Egyptians (See Sforno on Ex. 1:10) to increase those fears, inciting hatred and leading to slavery and murder.

Doubt, fear, hatred – such strategies have plagued so many oppressed groups for thousands of years. Why? Because they’ve been effective. Thanks to doubt, fear, and hatred, Jewish history is filled with moments of difficulty, tragedy, and horror. There’s been plenty of positives, but we’ve seen more than our share of challenging times. We’re not alone. Almost any minority group has felt it in some way. And just yesterday it was reported that there were calls for a race war by White Nationalists at a gun rally on Monday. Three people have been arrested so far. Absurd, but true! Calls for a race war on MLK Day!

There is far too much hatred! We’ll talk about that, but first we have to understand that disagreement is not the same as hatred. A difference of opinion is natural. A difference of opinion is healthy, even. If someone disagrees with you, they do not necessarily hate you. I mean, they might, but we can be a little sensitive about these things – yes?

The doubt, the fear, and the hatred that I’m talking about relates to who someone is, not what someone does. If you hate me just because I’m Jewish, just because I’m gay, just because I’m Black - it has nothing to do with the person I am because you’re not seeing me as a full person. We are all full human beings and we all need to be seen as full human beings.

We asked our friends and neighbors to join us tonight in solidarity because we’re all in this together. History Professor, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, in her book, “Antisemitism: Here and Now,” explains, “When expressions of contempt for one group become normative, it is virtually inevitable that similar hatred will be directed at other groups. Like a fire set by an arsonist, passionate hatred and conspiratorial worldviews reach well beyond their intended target.”

On MLK Day, we have to quote Dr. King. In his Letter from the Birmingham Jail, Dr. King offers a more positive formulation of this idea: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

These are words and ideas that many of us have heard before. Many of us have thought that they were profound and then we set them aside. Right now, that’s not good enough. We need to allow them to impact us. We need to let them touch our lives so we can feel them, incorporate them, and live them. We need to be able to confront our own prejudices in order to do so.

We don’t deserve hatred because we’re Jewish.

We don’t deserve hatred because we’re Muslim or Christian or Hindu or Baha’i or any religion.

We don’t deserve hatred because we don’t believe in God.

We don’t deserve hatred because we’re Black or Latinx or Asian or White or any race.

We don’t deserve hatred because of who we’re attracted to or who we love.

We don’t deserve hatred because we don’t fit neatly into the binary of male/female.

We don’t deserve hatred because of our disability.

We don’t deserve hatred because of who we are.

We don’t deserve hatred. Period.

We don’t deserve it. But it happens. We don’t deserve it. But we experience it in person, behind our backs, and online. We experience it verbally and physically. And we will continue to experience it – all of us, for all of us are impacted by it – we will continue to experience hatred until we refuse to stand by and remain silent. We will continue to experience hatred until the vast majority stands up time and again, over and over again, because hatred doesn’t just go away. We have to stand up repeatedly and say, “no one deserves hatred.”

Over two thousand years ago, Hillel taught:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me?

If I am only for myself, what am I?

And if not now, when?

Now is the time to care for ourselves and to care for others. Now is the time for all people to be seen as full human beings. Now is the time for solidarity. Thank you for your presence here tonight. It means the world!

Shabbat Shalom!

Thu, July 9 2020 17 Tammuz 5780