By Rabbi Mitch
Last week’s violent mob attack at the U.S. Capitol was a continuation of Charlottesville 2017. The location was different, but the situation was the same. Hate group members felt encouraged and permitted to come out from the darkness and raise their fists.
A truism within our lives is that words matter, both what is said and what is not said. When leaders morally equivocate, violence rationalized, hate not actively combatted, and good people stay silent for too long, bad things are bound to happen. Charlottesville 2017 didn’t merely occur, and neither did D.C. 2021.
Judaism posits the formula for the Golden Rule as “what is hateful to you, don’t do to anyone else.” This language is the starting point for understanding that every human being is created equally in the image of God. God calls upon us to refrain from any improper actions to others that we would not want to be done to ourselves. But, refraining from improper action is the starting point for our moral behavior.
God commands: “justice, justice you shall pursue” and “do not stand idly by while your neighbor is bleeding.” On January 18th, our Nation observes together the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday that commemorates Rev. King’s life and Civil Rights legacy. MLK Day is described as “a day on, not a day off,” and it is the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities. God’s intention, and God’s servants like Rev. King, understand that every day is a “day on” by which we are called to improve our communities’ lives.
Charlottesville and D.C. are causalities to our failure to do enough. Most terrible events in history come about as a consequence of good people not doing enough. There is a natural tendency to blame others when bad things occur, but the blame game serves little purpose. Looking back is only useful when it focuses on the here and now and what we desire for our future.
What are we doing to engender love within our communities actively?
How are we developing meaningful relationships with people different than ourselves, not merely a tolerance of the “other,” but a real “love” of the other?
It should be emphasized that this real “love” is not a feeling within our heart but a call for sacred words and actions in every aspect of our relationships. If we want to change course for our Country, it begins with building real bridges with those who think differently from us, look different from us, act differently from us, etc.
Leadership should seek the opportunity to hear the concerns, validate the feelings, and build a broader consensus on moving forward best together. American citizenry needs to reaffirm our collective commitment that we are all created equally in the image of God, and we, in words and actions, must actively love one another.
The COVID 19 pandemic attacks all human beings; no one has a natural immunity to be safe. We all understood that a safe vaccine needed to be created and distributed to save life as quickly and efficiently as possible. Hate and evil is the historically constant “virus” that attacks all human beings. There is no “natural” immunity. The only way to combat hatred is to quickly and efficiently implement the words and actions that save lives.
Suppose you are aware of hate speech that attacks an individual or a group because of their race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, etc. In that case, you can engage in “counterspeech.” When you witness hate, make a point to stand up and speak out for equality, diversity, and inclusivity. Respond to hate speech with loving and compassionate words and stick to logic and verified truths, not personal feelings.
It is essential to take on the educator’s role when we witness hate and reach out to the victim with our empathy. We also help foster a better future when we actively search out the opportunities to combat injustice and fulfill Tikkun Olan (To Repair the World).
Lack of preparedness has never been a good option. Within our Prayer-book, we offer every Sabbath the Prayer for our Country.
We ask God to share with all of us blessings upon our Nation: “Our Land,” “Our Inhabitants,” “Our Leaders.”
We ask God to grant us all: “Peace and Security” and “Happiness and Freedom.”
We ask God to share the Divine Spirit of Love within all the inhabitants of our Nation, to uproot from our hearts: “Hatred and Malice” and “Jealousy and Strife.”
We ask God to plant within us: “Love and Companionship” and “Peace and Friendship.”
We ask God to grant us the knowledge to: “Judge Justly” and “Act with Compassion and Courage.”
Finally, we ask God that our Nation be a blessing to all who dwell on earth so that we might live together in: “Friendship and Freedom.”
Prayerful words of love are needed to prompt our sacred actions. We ask God for help, but ultimately we are the ones who have to become God’s “Outstretched Arm of Deliverance.”
Together, we recently celebrated our New Year, and it has not been a good start. But, with new resolve, solidarity, and hope, let’s create the sacred environment of love and caring for each other that God wants for us.
B’Shalom U’vracha – With Peace & Blessings,
Mitchell M. Hurvitz is the Senior Rabbi at Temple Sholom and the
immediate past president of the Greenwich Fellowship of Clergy
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: We have asked our spiritual community to share their thoughts after a difficult year and the turmoil in Washington last week. We are putting these online as we receive them and will print them in this week’s paper.