As Jews, we know what it is to be a minority group under attack, and it's our moral imperative -- as I've said at many other times this year -- to stand in defense of our fellow minorities who are being targeted with the cruel rhetoric and policies of this administration. The Torah emphasizes this point in multiple ways, both in the positive -- with the commandment to emulate God in loving the foreigner in our midst (Deut. 10:18) -- and in the negative -- with the prohibition against oppressing or perverting justice for them in any way (Exod. 22:20, Deut. 24:17).
For me, this has been a week of dramatic contrasts. On the one hand, this was back-to-school week for my three kids... and as such, it was filled with all of the wonderful things you might imagine (fresh school supplies, shoes and lunch boxes, new teachers and classrooms, and lots of excitement!). First-day photos of children serve as such beautiful reminders of growth, change and potential that every new year holds.
(Kavana's Gan started this week!)
But, every time I look up, something else seems to knock the wind right out of me!
Sessions' announcement about ending DACA hit me (and many in our community!) like a brick. It feels evil and inhuman that our country might seek to deport 800,000 young people, many of whom have been here since infancy... especially because this represents a reversal of the premises they've been living under for years as they've graduated high school, attended college, found first jobs, and/or served in our military. This decision, especially coupled with Trump's pardoning of Arpaio, feels like a direct assault on all Latinos (undocumented and documented alike).
As Jews, we know what it is to be a minority group under attack, and it's our moral imperative -- as I've said at many other times this year -- to stand in defense of our fellow minorities who are being targeted with the cruel rhetoric and policies of this administration. The Torah emphasizes this point in multiple ways, both in the positive -- with the commandment to emulate God in loving the foreigner in our midst (Deut. 10:18) -- and in the negative -- with the prohibition against oppressing or perverting justice for them in any way (Exod. 22:20, Deut. 24:17). There's also a powerful historical argument to be made from Jewish experiences with deportation mere decades ago -- for a great articulation of this, see Susannah Heschel's article in the Forward this week, entitled "My Father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Was a Dreamer, Too." Stay tuned... as a Kavana community, we will continue building coalitions, fighting discriminatory policies, and advocating for justice and openness in our society with every fiber of our being in the year to come!
In addition, the sun and moon have been glowing red for days and ash has been falling from the sky here in Seattle due to raging wildfires across the west. Clean-up efforts in devastated and still-soggy Southeast Texas have only just begun, while now Florida and the entire Southeastern seaboard is bracing and/or evacuating for Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic. Whether our federal government chooses to use words like "climate change" and "global warming" or not, it's clear that something is up. We will strive to respond to immediate human suffering to the best of our ability, while also setting our sites on the longer-term goal of protecting our planet and environment.
When all of the news and even the weather reports get to be too oppressive, I try to return to simple promises of hope and renewal: the shofar sounds during this month of Elul, calling us to return; the sweetness of apples and honey; the joyful sounds of kids returning to classrooms where they will spend the next year playing and learning. We truly are privileged to lead the lives we all do... and I look forward to welcoming in the New Year of 5778 with this community and setting our sights on all the work we might do together in the coming year!
This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks.
In this quiet pause, it's awesome to be able to reflect on the theme of this week's holiday. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated widely in Israel, of course, but it does have a Hebrew name: Chag ha-Hodaya, literally, the Holiday of Gratitude (or thanks or acknowledgement). You might recognize the root word from so many of our Jewish prayers... it's conjugated into forms like "modeh ani" ("I give thanks") or "modim anachnu lach" ("We give thanks to You") or, perhaps most famous of all -- a line repeated during the Hallel service or at a bris -- "hoduladonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo" ("Give thanks to Adonai who is good, for God's lovingkindness endures forever.")
Last night, I went to bed with the mixed election results fresh in my mind. This morning, I woke up thinking about a powerful image that appears at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Toledot. In last week's reading, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a wife for Isaac, and he had selected Rebecca based on her incredible generosity and compassion (as our Moadon students have learned, she offered water not only to him but also to his camels!). This week, we meet Rebecca again, now pregnant and uncomfortable. She seeks divine intervention, and is told that two nations are struggling in her womb. In the pshat (the simple, plain meaning), this means that she is pregnant with a set of twins. On the level of drash (deeper interpretation), these twins, Jacob and Esau, represent two very different modalities of being, and it is these that are struggling within her.