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10/27/2023 10:29:48 AM


Senior Rabbi Benjamin Sharff

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech L'cha, God calls Avram (later Abraham) to go forth from everything he has ever known, to a land that God will show him. This call was a great leap of faith into the unknown, and it is also the beginning of our story as the Jewish people. We have been on this journey ever since, which has involved not just physical journeys but also spiritual journeys. The spiritual journeys often involved delving into the deeper questions of what it means to be Jewish and to live Jewishly.

One of the elements I love about being Jewish is that we live in the gray. What I mean by this is there are very few absolutes in our tradition. This is why when you ask three Jews, you get four opinions. We recognize the complexity of the world and how simple solutions and platitudes rarely solve complex problems.

At the same time, contrary to popular misconceptions, there are very few of us in the world. We make up .2% of the global population, with over half of us now living in the State of Israel. .2%! To quote Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, “The nature of the dilemma can be stated in a three-word sentence. I am lonely.” It is not that we are alone, but we are lonely.

We are lonely because we feel the pain and the weight of the world when others suffer. But we feel it even more profoundly when the world does not feel the same about us. As the Shakespearean character Shylock said in the Merchant of Venice, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Now whether or not Shylock was an antisemitic depiction, he, nonetheless, was one of Shakespeare’s most human characters with all the pain, hurt, and anger of an oppressed people embodied in one character. 

We are lonely. We are hurting. We are angry. But mostly, we are scared. We are scared by the violence. We are scared by the vitriol and hate. We are scared by misrepresentations of ancient and modern history that perpetually use the blood libel to accuse us of once again being the bad actors as the cause of modern circumstances.

Nonetheless, we live with hope. We live with community. We live with the prayer for a better day. We care about Israelis. We care about Palestinians. Israeli & Palestinian children deserve to be safe and loved. 

I pray for the safe return of all of the hostages. I pray that the evil that is Hamas will be speedily and soon removed from our midst. I pray that one day soon Israelis and Palestinians can live side by side in peace and prosperity. And I pray that ancient hatreds will one day be eradicated, and we can live openly and proudly as Jews. A complex and complicated people who strive not to be lonely, but to love and to be loved.

Tue, December 5 2023 22 Kislev 5784