- Posted by Elaine Zecher
- On September 13, 2019
- 0 Comments
Welcome to Shabbat Awakenings, our weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat.
Is it possible to find humanity in an inhumane world?
When we look at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, we may be appalled.
When you take the field against your enemies, and the Eternal your God delivers them into your power and you take some of them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her and would take her to wife, you shall bring her into your house, and she shall trim her hair, pare her nails, and discard her captive’s garb. She shall spend a month’s time in your house lamenting her father and mother; after that you may come to her and possess her, and she shall be your wife. Then, should you no longer want her, you must release her outright. You must not sell her for money: since you had your will of her, you must not enslave her. (Deuteronomy 21:10-14)
This Biblical passage contains a number of assumptions aligned with a worldview and context in which they lived: Soldiers can take captives. They are men. They can lust after (beautiful) female captives and take them as their wives. They can then reject the woman and release her outright with no obligation.
Within their worldview and context, they must also abide by some particular rules. They must bring her into their house and allow her to clean up; some commentators regard this as beauty maintenance while others see it as part of mourning. She shall be allowed the specified thirty days of mourning even as an unnamed female captive; just as the people mourned for the luminaries of their generation, Moses and Aaron, for thirty days as well. The law recognized that she would need time to lament her mother and father whom she would never see again. And, if released, she was free and not sold or made into a slave.
This scenario is one of many played out as case studies in this portion for the Jewish people about to enter the land and establish themselves there. Though we may find it difficult and abhorrent to how we view the world and the context in which we live, the laws set forth a kind of dignity, respect, and humanity in a world that had the potential to thrive on an ugly side of human nature.
God only knows what generations from now will say about our laws as a reflection of our worldview and context in which live now. They may ask why so much gun violence? How could white supremacy continue again and again to gain traction? Why the prevalence of sexual assault by powerful men? Why the focus on the individual at the expense to the community as a whole?
Maybe the past is not so distant after all.
But, what will be the response? How will it reflect our worldview? We can only hope they will see the work of justice and compassion, of righteousness and decency, of the sacred work of congregations and collaborations as salve and antidote to an unfair and inhumane world yet to be saved from itself.
Welcome our new rabbi, Dan Slipakoff at Qabbalat Shabbat at 6:00 p.m. as we install and celebrate him with a festive oneg. Livestream HERE. Soul Food Friday gathers at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapel.
Tomorrow morning we study starting at 9:00 a.m. with a short service and Torah reading.
What do you think is the antidote to inhumanity? Connect with me HERE.