Torah Tidbits

Charleston On My Mind  featured-rabbi

Shabbat Parashat Chukkat

June 27, 2015 – 10 Tammuz 5775

Dear Friends,

Charleston, South Carolina – such a beautiful city.  So much history.  So much sadness today.  But, at the same time, so much determination and so much hope.  Charleston is on my mind.

I am sure you are watching the news as the funerals begin, following the most recent incident of violence in the A.M.E. church in Charleston.  I am sure you have been listening to the reactions of the families and of the community that was targeted.  I am sure you are waiting to hear what will be said today.

A broad cross-section of American Jewish organizations have declared this Shabbat to be a  “Shabbat of solidarity with the African-American community.”   As Jews, we know about discrimination.  But, unless we ourselves are people of color, or are visibly identifiable as Jews, we do not know what it is like to black in America.

As an American people, we have work to do.  As Jews, we can contribute to the healing and to the peaceful movement of our communities toward greater understanding and mutual respect.  As Americans and as Jews, we can help make changes that will lead to greater equality, to greater safety, and to greater love for all of us.

Our Torah portion, Chukkat, tells the story of Moses striking the rock, twice, instead of speaking to the rock, as God had commanded.  Then, we read that Moses and Aaron are both told that they will not enter the Promised Land.  Why the punishment for Moses?  Perhaps because he repeated the same mistake twice!  But, why the punishment for Aaron?   Perhaps because he saw Moses strike the rock the first time.  He had time to intervene and stop Moses from striking the rock a second time, but, instead, Aaron stood silently by while Moses repeated his mistake.

Charleston is not the first incident that should concern us as Americans and as Jews.  Sadly, it is part of a broader picture that is part of our reality.

The Torah teaches us that standing by, in silence, when we see painful mistakes being repeated is not acceptable.  Let us step up to the plate and work together within our community and with our neighbors.  Let us point our hearts toward God and walk together in peace.  And, may we be instruments of comfort and of healing for us and for all good people everywhere.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror