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May 17, 2019

05/20/2019 09:47:57 AM


Rabbi Robinson

Yair Robinson

Parashat Emor 5779

My son had his spring chorus concert this past week. One of the songs played by the band was an orchestral arrangement of Psalm 42. Do you know the psalm? It reads, in part " soul cries for You, O God; my soul thirsts for God, My tears have been my food day and night; Why so downcast, my soul, why disquieted within me? Have hope in God; I will yet praise Him, my ever-present help, my God"

As I was listening to the music, I couldn't help but think this was the perfect song, the perfect psalm, for this week.

America this week was exhausting. Reading the news this week was especially exhausting. To quote Elon Musk, I'm just trying to think about the future and not be sad. But Missouri. And Georgia. And Alabama. Oy. When Pat Robertson says you've gone too far, well, need I say more?

I have gone through this week with a profound sense that we are failing women. That we as a nation are failing to protect women's bodily liberty, to protect the rights of the individual. Watching the lawmakers in these states trip over each other (and basic science) to violate women's integrity has been astounding, and heartbreaking, and terrifying.

And not just women. Let's be clear, what is happening in Alabama, and Missouri, and Georgia, and Ohio, is not the passing of laws that affirm life. They are acts of unabashed cruelty. They are not acts of love for potential children, because those same lawmakers are quite content to abandon said children once they have emerged into the world, especially if that child is brown, or gay, or poor, or non-Christian. No, these are not acts of love; these are actions that cause any person of good conscience to lament as our psalmist laments. These are acts of profanity, acts that defile the idea that all of us are created in God's image. The lawmakers who insist on such laws can use God's name all they want; they use that name in vain.

Cantor Flynn just chanted beautifully, as always, from parashat Emor, and she quotes from the text: You may not profane God's holy name. Some commentators connect this text with the commandment to recite the Kedusha in the context of community. In that discussion, in the Talmud, we learn that If one says 'Amen, yehei shemei rabbah' with all of his strength [i.e., with all of his intent], even if there is a trace of heresy in him, he is forgiven."

That is a powerful idea. That the act of saying this prayer with full intent and strength is transformative. Which is good, because we're going to need all of our intent and strength. We cannot be asleep any longer. Our task is to sanctify God's name, and to recommit ourselves to justice. Yes, we must lament, we must cry out. We must weep. We can give ourselves space to doubt and fear. And then we must act. We have to make those phone calls; to our national leaders, to our state leaders. We must give whatever we can to support organizations on the ground fighting these unjust laws. We must listen deeply and carefully to the stories of women who have found themselves suffering due to this kind of injustice. We must do this, because failure to do so would be a profanity in and of itself. Yehei shemei rabbah--we commit ourselves to God's greatness, God's holiness, by doing the justice work that is needed in this broken world. May it be enough. Amen.


Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784