Last week, all around the country, people stayed awake late into the night and took to the streets.
Near the beginning of the movie Men in Black, Will Smith‘s character is being tested to see if he has what it takes to be a man in black. He and the others who are being tested run a gauntlet of monstrous-looking cutouts, and must make split-second decisions about which to shoot. All the candidates except Will Smith shoot every monster. Smith points his gun at them but does not pull the trigger until the last cutout, a little white girl with a pile of schoolbooks. He shoots that cutout through the forehead. When asked why, he explains that each monster looked dangerous at first, but then he noticed something that made it clear that it wasn’t a threat. He shot the little-girl cutout because she didn’t belong in the neighborhood and the books were too advanced for her, so it was clear that she wasn’t as she presented. He is chosen to be part of the organization, and none of the others are.
Recently someone called me a libtarded b—- in the course of a Facebook discussion regarding the president’s executive order reinstating the Global Gag Rule. Also known as the Mexico City Policy, this rule bars foreign aid or federal funding for international nongovernmental organizations that promote or provide abortions. I don’t think his comment is helping to heal the rift between people in the world these days.
This Shabbat we celebrate the New Moon of Shevat, the beginning of the Hebrew month in which the world begins to turn from the darkness of winter to the light of spring. We now stand on a threshold, emerging from the darkest day of the darkest month, into a sliver of new light — by which we might contemplate new possibility.
What does it mean to be part of a social change movement?
Be quiet and listen. Just listen. The voices of the American people are crying out to you. Some are rejoicing. Some are in anguish, but all have a voice that deserves to be heard. One of the strengths of our great country is that it is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds and heritages. For over 200 years, we have been known as a beacon of opportunity to the world. Your ancestors and mine traveled to this country seeking a better life. And, we all want a better life for our children. So I urge you to please listen. Listen to the voices of every American as she or he tells you what they need to make their lives and the lives of their children better. Some will speak about economic opportunity. Some may voice concerns about the safety of our country and American values. Some may speak of their own personal safety and protecting their civil rights. Some may not be able to speak. Their voices have been systematically suppressed. Even these people, need to be invited to speak and be heard. Every person has a story, and, to lead the United States, it is imperative that you listen to these stories in order to truly understand the people and what they need.
What does it take to be a “player” in Jewish life? No, not that kind of “player.” I mean, what does it take to be a responsible and influential participant in the Jewish communal life you want? It’s a provocative question – and it’s supposed to be. The answer puts you (yes, you) – not just rabbis and other spiritual leaders – in the power seat of what the Jewish future will be.
I just returned from a congregational mission trip to Cuba yesterday. It is quite possibly one of the most interesting and eye-opening journeys I have ever taken. Less than 24 hours after my return I’m still absorbing all of the experiences and only just beginning to sort in my mind what these experiences meant and what I learned from them. Cuba is a country of complexity and contradictions. It is some of what you have heard or imagined it to be, while also being entirely different from much of what you have heard or imagined. It is a place where the people are far less free in many ways and yet more free in other ways than we are in the USA.
Over the course of more than 18 years in the rabbinate, there has been one question that I was asked at every interview for any congregational rabbinic position – will I officiate at an interfaith wedding?