This is the sermon I gave at our #ShowUpForShabbat service.
We have gathered here tonight, so many members of our congregation, along with friends, allies, and strangers, people who want to support us, to mourn with us, and to pray with us.
To look forward to a future that is different, that is brighter, better for everyone in our communities, Christian and Jew, Muslim and Buddhist and Hindu and atheist, black and gay, native and immigrant, for our children and our children’s children.
We know that we are only as safe as the most vulnerable among us, and so this Shabbat we stand together. But not everyone stands with us. Incidents of hate and anti-Semitism continue to abound.
The New York Post reported this morning that a vandal entered Union Temple synagogue in Brooklyn Heights yesterday and scrawled “Kill all Jews” on a door. A custodian told the paper that hateful slurs also were found on the second and fifth floors of the building.
The day before, vandals drew a swastika and racial slurs on a nearby brownstone. Two synagogues in California were vandalized this week, and to be honest, there have probably been many more and I simply can’t keep up with the news.
Rabbi Riqi Kosovske wrote, “The Jewish community is coming together with our progressive faith and justice partners, but the white supremacists and anti-Semites are also getting bolder.”
So what is a tiny congregation like Kol HaNeshama to do? How can the good people of a small two-county area, like Sarasota-Manatee, make a difference?
Tonight’s gathering is one step. The American Jewish Committee, which sent out the call to Show Up For Shabbat, reports that hundreds of thousands of people, of all religions and backgrounds, are taking part in what they have called, “the largest single demonstration of solidarity with the Jewish community in recorded history.”
And still, we know that is not enough. These gatherings, these conversations and outreach efforts to one another, must continue unabated.
And that is not enough.
My friend Rabbi David Evan Markus wrote this morning, “Seeking and finding common ground is fine but is not itself a moral imperative… what’s moral and ethical is doing the right things… shining a light on hate… voting, comforting the afflicted, afflicting the overly comfortable, telling the truth, speaking the truth, screaming the truth when necessary.”
The Talmud teaches, “Whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the whole world.”
I was deeply moved when, at the vigil on Monday night, the Imam from the Islamic Society of Sarasota Bradenton quoted the Koran as saying the exact same thing. This is universal.
And what does it mean to save a life? Again, our sacred text has an answer. In Leviticus chapter 19, known as the Holiness Code, we are taught:
“Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, Adonai your God, am holy…”
and after several commandments that echo the 10 commandments given at Sinai, it continues with an description of what it means to be holy to do holy,
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not pick your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen fruit of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I Adonai am your God.”
That’s how we save a life. We support one another in times of need. We provide food and clothing and shelter for those who are hungry and homeless, whether we know them or not.
And the Torah teaches us to ensure their dignity is preserved, by stipulating that they should be allowed to collect the food for themselves. It is why our tradition teaches that even the poorest among us should give tzedakah, provide financial support for those less fortunate, no matter how small the amount.
I am not saying that the work of tikkun olam, of repairing the world, is easy. It’s not. And yet it lies in our hands.
The Psalmist knew that we would need encouragement; this is why Psalm 29, which we sing every Shabbat morning before reading from the Torah, ends with these words, “Adonai will give strength to his people, Adonai will bless his people with peace.”
May we be so blessed.
I am grateful to the faith leaders from churches across our community who joined us for Shabbat services tonight.