D’Var Torah: November 18, 2016

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayera, Abraham demonstrated a tremendous amount of chutzpah by challenging God’s notions of justice and mercy. The story began with God telling Abraham that God would destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah due to the wickedness that had overtaken those cities. Abraham, in response, asked God to spare the cities if there could be 50 righteous people found living among them. Together they negotiated all the way down to the number of ten righteous individuals. Sadly, there was not even one righteous person to be found. But as we learn from Abraham, we must stand up on the side of justice no matter the circumstance.

As a rabbi who is privileged to serve congregants from all ends of the political spectrum, it has been difficult to address the results of our most recent election. First off, I am proud how our country continues to be a model to the world in terms of our ability to assume a peaceful transition of power. As we know, there are winners and losers in every election. Thus, some are happy, some are sad, and many are left with mixed emotions.

However, as many of us also know, this was not a normative election. During the past year-and-a-half, the political dialogue in our country has shifted, sometimes in very scary directions. Minorities have felt and continue to feel the venom of hatreds that until recently were lurking beneath the surface, but for the most part dared not see the light of day. Sadly, some members of our society now feel empowered to spew hate and act in demeaning and harmful ways.

This is a grave injustice. Like Abraham, we will stand up in the face of intolerance and injustice. We are a home to all our members regardless of political affiliation. We are a community that is warm and welcoming. These Jewish values of justice and mercy should unite us no matter who we voted for. The Reform Temple of Rockland is a proud haven to the strong and the weak alike. For all people are treasured members of our community and society.

Intolerance and vilification will find no home here. Wherever there is injustice, we, in keeping with our prophetic tradition, will continue to stand up to it. As a people who were once enslaved in Egypt, and who know the suffering caused by hate especially through our history of anti-Semitism, we cannot be silent. Our tradition compels us to speak out. We are an ally to the poor, the widow, the stranger, minorities, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, transgender people, Muslims, Hispanics, women, and so many more. Their voices, your voices, will continue to be heard and propagated within our walls and into the greater community.

I say to all of you, we are a home to all. RTR strives to further the mission of Isaiah and Micah, “Where every man (and woman) shall sit under his/her own grapevine or fig tree, and none shall be afraid.”

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjamin Sharff