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“Sacred Values: A Post (Israeli) Election Reflection,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

November 4, 2022 | 10 Cheshvan 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here. This week I went back to what I wrote right after the 2016 election to find inspiration as we consider the election results in Israel.

Sir Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of England, wrote a book about and entitled, “The Dignity of Difference.” It expresses a truth that in order for civilizations and communities to thrive, we must celebrate our differences. He speaks of the positive outcome of the Tower of Babel when the people are dispersed and no longer speak the same language. For him, it is not e-pluribus unum but rather e-unum pluribus. Out of one come many. Made in the image of God, we are connected, and through our diversity, a different kind of understanding emerges.

Rabbi Sacks teaches us that diffusion of the people has its merits. He said, “The glory of the created world is its astonishing multiplicity: the thousands of different languages spoken by humankind, the proliferation of cultures, the sheer variety of the imaginative expressions of the human spirit, in most of which, if we listen carefully, we will hear the voice of wisdom telling us something we need to know.” (page 20)

Sometimes, however, there are differences, which are like a wave that drowns us.

What happens when we are astonished, in disbelief by what another does and says? What if our breath is taken away by how many others support ideas, attitudes, and behaviors we cannot fathom?  There is no synergy, dialectic, or paradox in our difference, just a rupture, which has the potential to create a great gulf between us.

The prophet, Isaiah, spoke these divine words, to the people in exile. Removed from a life they could only dream of, he recognized that there were those in great pain.

For a little while I forsook you.
But with vast love I will bring you back.
In slight anger, for a moment, I hid My face from you.
But with kindness everlasting, I will take you back in love.
Says the Eternal Redeemer. (Isaiah 54:7-8)

And so it goes with us. There are moments in life, in our existence on this planet and in our community, [here and in Israel,] when we feel forsaken, lost, and unhinged.

But we are here because there is an inextricable link, a sacred thread of vast love and kindness everlasting moving through us and between us.

For some, there is darkness while for others, in this moment, exaltation.
No matter which,
We are here because we are bridge builders.
We are healers of that vast gulf that divides us.
We sit together because God, as Redeemer, reminds us
I will take you back in love.

We need love right now
and there are others who need our love now, too.
With support, protection, and empathy:
The stranger, the vulnerable, the exiled,
The one who sits on the outside of the circle
and the one right next to us, too.

Whatever the outcome of this election was going to be, these sacred values do not change.

Hesed, kindness
Rachamin, caring
Tzedek, justice
Ahavah, love
Kehillah, community

They challenge us to find the strength of our tradition to guide us on this path—and there is great strength in Judaism to lead us and gather us to go forward. We cannot be diverted from caring, devotion, and justice.

Rebbe Nachman taught:

The world is a narrow bridge, but what is most important is not to be afraid.

Let us remember, that the world is the bridge, narrow as it might be, but it is a bridge to hope, to strength, and always to possibility.

May Shabbat open that possibility for all of us.

  • If you are in town, come join us for indoor Qabbalat Shabbat with plenty of singing, learning, praying, thinking, and some treats to eat and drink. If you’re unable to join onsite, please join on Zoom, on Facebook Live, or livestream on our website. Let’s celebrate together.
  • Tot Rock Shabbat gathers online at 5:00 p.m.
  • Thank Goodness It’s Shabbat gathers onsite at 10:00 a.m. No registration necessary.
  • A delightful Torah Study begins at 9:00 a.m. onsite and online! We begin with a short, informal morning service and then moves into an engaging, welcoming and inclusive Torah study for everyone and anyone. To join the conversation interactively online, access Zoom. You can also watch on Temple Israel’s website or Facebook page.
  • Gather online for Havdalah at 8:00 p.m. Our weekly Havdalah ritual is a lay-led experience. Stop by, say hello, catch up from the week, and say goodbye to Shabbat together. Join on Zoom.

Rabbi Elaine Zecher