The news on Sunday was shocking, confusing, and unspeakably tragic.
What in God’s name is happening in this, our world? Last week Tel Aviv, this Sunday Orlando, and next week …? There is so much pain.
In thousands of places all over the world Jews studied Torah last weekend. We engaged ourselves in those studies, because we have hoped to find a better understanding of how we can make this world a better place. We have engaged ourselves in Tikkun Olam, the reparation of the world, because we know and we see how much more needs to be done to see this world redeemed. Saturday night we spoke about the pain the death of a single person can cause, and how guilty we feel if we couldn’t help. But we accepted that death is part of our lives and that we can find comfort in our Jewish tradition and our surrounding community, if death happens within our closes circles.
But nothing can prepare us for those horrific, brutal and senseless attacks we had to witness in the past few days, months and years. The world, which I love so much, is broken, and the rifts seem to me un-bridgeable. How can we repair the world if a single person has been able to destroy the lives of so many, and to bring so much more hate into this world? How many more people need to study the values of the Torah to outbalance the bestial acts of those monsters?
Many, I know will answer this question with a sense of hopelessness, telling me that there aren’t enough good people in this world to tip the scale to the good. Helplessness tells us to surrender. But in doing so, we allow those monsters to take the victory home, and we give space to the demagogues who trample on the victims to boost themselves and their ideology of hate. The terror acts of the last few days don’t allow us to surrender, to the contrary, the victims of those crimes ask us to not give up hope and to stand up for our values.
We need to be the people of God that actively involve themselves in initiatives to end violence, especially violence against minorities. We need to be committed to the idea that being a Jew means nothing less than intentionally standing up, regardless of differences, when we see lives devalued or dehumanised by hate and ignorance. I believe with all my heart that doing so is a beautiful outworking of the Torah we claim to love and live.
We value all life and the dignity of others because we all bear God’s image. Our faith can never be a reason to turn away from each other, but it should be – it must be – the reason why we approach one another and try to make an impact, even though we don’t understand or approve. Our tradition calls us to nothing less!
Those terror acts call us to break down the walls of our own lethargy and to strengthen those who stand to protect us and our society. Judaism is not a religion of presenting the other cheek if we are attacked. To protect ourselves doesn’t mean to outcast others, it means to be aware that evil things happen and need to be stopped. When the allies started to re-create a civilised society in Germany after 1945 they used the term “fortified democracy” to introduce a system that doesn’t allow radicals to pervert democracy again. The main key is that every individual is responsible to protect this achievement. And so we are called today to protect our world from those radicals, from those haters of life, from those demagogues who try to ignite hate in us.
Today we weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn, tomorrow we stand up to change the world.
A few weeks ago, the film Exodus – Kings and Gods was launched and, in anticipation of the upcoming Torah readings about the liberation of the Israelites from slavery, I decided to watch the movie. I wanted to see how the authors of the film interpreted the biblical narrative. I was disappointed in the film in so many ways. I never expected to see a movie that was close to the bible’s narrative, and/or to Jewish interpretation, but in my opinion the film’s only goal was to devalue the Bible. The filmmakers presented a crude idea of a shizophrenic Moses who caused Israel to become insane followers of a cruel, child-murdering God.This film is not the first attempt at finding scientific explanations for the 10 plagues, and to devalue Moses’ prophecy as a kind of mental delusion. Usually, I don’t mind these attempts, as long as they respect and don’t vilify those who have a different understanding of the Torah. Unfortuantely this film has no intention of doing so.
And this shall be to you a law for all time: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls [teannu et nafshoteichem]; and you shall do no manner of work, neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. For on this day atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you of all your sins; you shall be clean before Adonai. It shall be a sabbath of complete rest for you, and you afflict your soul [ve-innitem et nafshoteichem]; it is a law for all time. (Leviticus 16:29–31)
Yom Kippur isn’t an easy day. Not because of we are fasting. I agree, fasting is one of the duties of today, as commanded in the Torah, but fasting in itself only needs a bit of physical strength. If, God forbid, we are ill, or get sick, we are even commanded to break our fast.
Many of you know that I moved a few short weeks ago. Anyone, who has moved, knows that relocation from one place to another isn’t easy. There are so many things to consider. What needs to be put into the packing cases, what needs to be left, to be sold, given away, or maybe stored. Before we can move, we need to write lists, we plan, make arrangements, and try and get organised.
Whenever I looked around my apartment before the move, I was shocked to see how much ….. stuff had found its way onto my shelves. There a book, I once bought because I had always wanted to read it. Here, a gift from a good friend that I had never quite found the right spot for. And so many papers on my desk, papers that needed checking and sorting. There are many little keepsakes and souvenirs all over my shelves, reminders of the many wonderful moments in my life.