Parsha Vaera and Striving for a Understanding and Compassionate Society

Last week I wrote a piece intended for the newsletter that began by celebrating Raphael Warnock’s and Jon Ossoff’s victory in Georgia. But, tragically, the news of the unbelievable violence and attempted coup on the Hill cast a dark shadow over Georgia and over all of us.

Along with COVID, another kind of virus has taken hold of America. It is a virus that has been hidden in the hearts of thousands upon thousands of Americans for decades. It is a virus of discontent and deep distrust of the vision of an inclusive society. It is a virus that has been nurtured by poor education, the abuse of social media, and lack of leadership to help people address decades-old trauma with civility and meaningful dialogue.

This virus must be combatted with compassionate listening and a commitment to heal old wounds.

In this week’s Parsha Vaera, we see how difficult it is to create a movement for change and liberation. America was founded on the vision of liberty, equality and brotherhood/sisterhood for all. It’s taken decades to achieve parts of that vision. Blacks and women can now vote, but we are threatened with loss of what has been achieved toward that vision. There still exists an anti-freedom movement dedicated to undermining this democratic foundation and promoting white supremacy. It’s the unleashing of the Pharaoh virus. Can we stop it?

“If you see your enemy’s ass sagging under its burden, you shall not pass by. You shall surely release it with him. (Ex. 23: 5)”

The late Rabbi Sacks wrote: “Your enemy is also a human being. Hostility may divide you, but there is something deeper that connects you: the covenant of human solidarity. Pain, distress, difficulty – these things transcend the language of difference. A decent society will be one in which enemies do not allow their rancor or animosity to prevent them from coming to one another’s assistance when they need help…”

Yes, we need to prevent or arrest our enemies that seek to harm us. But if we don’t work on the deeper issues, we will perpetuate the disease.

Let’s us pray for and work towards a more understanding and more compassionate society. Let us go to southern Virginia, Appalachia and into the heart of this country to extend our hands to others. If we can’t yet go physically, let’s meet on Zoom.

Just as the Makot, the strikes against Pharaoh are intensifying, so we will see the struggle to preserve democratic institutions intensify over the next few weeks. – Reb David

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