Parsha Re'eh: Reflections on Blessings and Curses

Makom Shalom is proud to be a diverse community with a range of views in current affairs and matters of faith. The views I present on this blog are my own and not a statement on behalf of the Makom Shalom community. I encourage you to share your views here in the comment section on this blog. I welcome respectful and engaged dialog.                                                                                                            Rabbi Cantor Michael Davis 

Last night Makom met at Millenium Park. We spread out on the grass, ate dinner, shared treats and listened to joyous, uplifting music. What a pleasure to spend this relaxed time together, to have some simple, summer fun. I needed to hear the faith of the Gospel singers and their confidence in the present moment and in the future. Together with everybody else, I watched with dismay as this week brought a new low to our country. Something changed this week. I think back to this time last year, the summer of 2016.

It was widely believed that Hilary Clinton would be President. A year ago, the notion that columns of torch bearing neo-Nazis backed by armed, uniformed militia would march through a U.S. city chanting anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans was as unthinkable as the void in national leadership. That a White supremacist would commit an act of deadly terrorism in broad daylight under the eyes of the police and National Guard was unthinkable. And to think that our president would then publicly defend the White Supremacists and their violence....

This week’s Torah portion (Re’eh) opens with the statement: “See, I place before you today the blessing and the curse. The blessing is that you should hear the good way that Adonai your God has set you. And the curse, is to not heed the good teachings of Adonai your God and turn away from the path...” (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). We are becoming increasingly aware to the reality of the evil within our country. Love is what the haters hate. We, people of good faith, will continue to choose life and to aspire to live as ethical and loving people. We will continue to reach out to each other and build bridges and strengthen our to others. Violence and hate reach beyond the events themselves to try to take over our time and attention, claiming much more space than they deserve. Instead, let’s share what the overwhelming majority are up to.

For instance:

1) Nonviolence and even humor work! Check out how a modern day community in Germany came together to publicly ridicule a Nazi rally.

2) In repudiation of the President’s support for Nazis, the CEOs of the largest U.S. businesses have abandoned the President’s advisory councils forcing him to shut down several of
those groups.

3) On Monday evening, some 1,000 Jews gathered in a synagogue in Skokie in solidarity with Charlottesville.

4) In response to the public’s outrage, the major Jewish organization in Chicago, the JUF, has has broken its silence with regard the alt-right. The JUF should be commended for issuing a strong statement condemning the neo-Nazis.

5) Baltimore and cities across the nation are pulling down their Confederacy statues - icons of White supremacy - of which there are over 1,500 across the country.

6) Read this moving statement by State Senator Daniel Biss to his children.

7) After our Torah study tomorrow there will be a rally at noon. It’s taking place at a Chicago monument to a 19th century local slaveholder.

The best news is that High Holydays are coming! I look forward each year to Rosh Hashana. I enjoy being together as a community in joy and introspection. I believe in community. I believe in Jewish community. I believe in the power of ritual to heal and transform. I encourage you, as part of you own preparation for the New Jewish Year to reach out to your friends and invite them to come with you to shul.

Please expand your Jewish community circle by inviting friends to Makom for the Holydays. Last week, we celebrated Shabbat together at the British School.  Many of you received personal invitations from other Makomers to come - and you came! That is the simple power of a personal invitation. We are all a part of the One. Our souls yearn to connect with each other and with the greater good. Let’s open our door. Let’s invite others to be with us.

With blessings,
Rabbi Michael