This weekend announces the new month of Nisan. “Pesach is coming, Pesach is coming, Pesach is coming, oh yes I know.” Many of us have just entered into, or are already deep into, Pesach preparation mode.
At my lunch and learn class on Thursday, our first one relating to Pesach, we went around and spoke about what things “get us through” the hard preparations for the holiday. Many great answers were shared, among them was remembering why we are doing what we are doing. Sometimes keeping the intention at the front of the mind is hard, but can we afford to waiver on something as important as a knowing that we will be engaging in a Feast of Freedom? A Feast of Responsibility? A Feast of Opportunity?
Speaking of knowing why we are doing what we are doing, this past Wednesday I participated in a clergy led conversation with our Gesher teens about March 14th where many of our teens (in schools where it was permitted) walked out of class for seventeen minutes. Feeling were shared and Jewish texts were used to highlight aspects of what is happening in our communities. I truly commend those students who took action and I encourage our youth to stand for what they believe in.
I do think that we have to be clear about what the “walk-Out” stood for. What it wasn’t, was a statement about how we should treat one another, or about how we must work to prevent individuals from feeling isolated, or to improve services for those suffering from mental illness. The students themselves said that a school shooting was not going to suddenly make all teens become more inclusive, prevent social stratification, or even limit bullying (certainly not wiping it out completely). These things will go on happening and must be dealt with separately. The Walk-Out was to make a statement against how easy it is for anyone to get their hands on a gun, especially those weapons able to wipe out large groups of people with ease.
I feel strongly that the Walk-Out was about the problem of the proliferation of guns in general, and those like semi-automatics in particular. To me, advocating for greater support of “common sense gun laws” is an ethical stance, not a political one.
With the teens we studied texts about oxen, and the owner who is held responsible for the damage causes by his/her ox if the ox had done such things before. During this part of the discussion Rabbi Miriam and I had the same gut reaction. “No where does the text say you shouldn’t own an ox.”
On Saturday March 24th from 11-1 there is the March for Life at the Walkway over the Hudson. (https://www.hudsonvalley360.com/article/march-our-lives-hudson-valley) We all know there is also the March in DC, and other marches across the country. Now, I am not happy that these marches have been planned for a Saturday morning. There is no religious group that I am aware of that has their one and only service on Sunday afternoons, but in any event, I strongly support those who choose to go to DC, New York City, or the Bridge over the Hudson Saturday morning.
As for me, it is my intention to bring our Shabbat services to a conclusion between 11:00 and 11:30 so that there will be time for those who want to go over to the Bridge. I know that in the current climate the line between ethics and politics is blurred, but that should not prevent us from making room for people to join together for the sake of our children. (See here information on how USCJ is willing to sponsor our Jewish teens to go to DC: http://usy.org/march-faq).
Due to my own moral compass, I am deciding to make room for people to not have to choose between praying in synagogue and praying with their feet, and I will be heading over to the bridge for the same reason.
Shabbat Shalom and may the enslavement of our children to violence come to an end soon.
Rabbi Daniel Victor