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Message from Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh

06/08/2022 12:14:37 PM


Rabbi Ilene Harkavy Haigh

In her collection of poetry, Amanda Gorman writes, 

“It is easy to harp,
Harder to hope…”

The events of the past few weeks in Buffalo, Uvalde and… leave us in a place where ­it is easy to harp and harder to hope.  The tragedies and the diminution of rights seeping through the courts leave so many of us in deepest frustration.  We are unnerved by the persistent violence and hate. 

Gideon Taylor, president of the Claims Conference, an organization which fights for the rights of survivors of the Shoah, writes, “Hateful words that were yelled in the park, spat on the street, and roared in the classroom.  These words alienated, belittled, and shocked; but worse, these words gave birth to the horrific massacre of six million Jews….the Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere.  It literally started with words.”

For all of us, the tragedies of the last few weeks have marked us, they have called us, they have demanded that we raise our voices more urgently than ever, remembering, still, that it is easy to harp, harder to hope.

Tonight we will come together for Shabbat and for Shavuot. The service, led by our teens, will include a blessing of our first fruits, our newborn babies.  If you have never experienced this service, please, please join us in the tent or on Zoom.

One of our twelfth graders will chant the opening words of the Ten Commandments.  We, as a community, are preparing to stand together again at Sinai, witnesses and recipients of revelation, to receive the Ten Commandments.  The rabbis call Shavuot z’man matan Torahtenu, the time of the giving of the Torah.

So many of us are numb to the horror and the realization that the violence in our nation is out of control, and many of us know that we must act.  I wish, I pray that I had the vision that might lead us toward a solution.  I do not.  But I do believe that we all have the strength to stand together at Sinai and travel as one community toward revelation, to hear miSinai from Sinai, the words of Torah:  “Thou shall not kill.”  And somewhere in “Thou shall not covet,” to hear the proclamation: “Thou shall not hate.”

In her treatise on hope, Miss Gorman reminds us,

“Since the world is round,  
There is no way to walk away

  From each other, for even then
  We are coming back together."

Added note:

It is the teachings of the rabbis that we receive Torah on Shavuot. Each year it is as if we too stand at Sinai and receive revelation. Last week when the teens led our service for Shavuot, their parents, under the beautiful guidance of our past president  blessed the 12th graders as they prepare for the next chapter of their journeys. The sanctuary, our mishkan was replete with blessing. We blessed our first fruits with one of our mom's sharing the majesty of her newborn daughter’s name reflecting her gratitude for the divine. Music was shared, the teens sharing their words and their silence, there piano and their guitar. God’s presence was literally revealed.   

It was our first Shavuot gathering inside the building since 2019.  We were together celebrating Shabbat and Yom Tov. Revelation does not always happen with thunder bolts and lightening. It is more likely an unfolding, a hearing, a shema that caresses and teases and calls us to hear. The community may have the opportunity to assist a Ukrainian family, is this our call? Each of us might be called upon to nudge the needle toward a safer society, is this our call? Each of us might need to stand up against racism or homophobia, is this our call? Each of us might need to listen more intently to the neighbor of friend who thinks differently than we do. Is this our call? When we come together in community, the call is easier to hear.  Tashma, taught the rabbis, come and learn and may we each hear the call. 

Wed, June 19 2024 13 Sivan 5784