Hi all, I just wanted to share my sermon from last Shabbat and a musical offering on the theme of hope. On this day… soon after New Year’s Day, immediately after a weekend honoring MLK, and the beginning of an impeachment trial, it seems like we could all use a little hope. 🙂
MLK/New Year’s Sermon
When we were in New York over the Winter Break, we stayed in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. If we hadn’t read the news while we were there, all we would have seen and experienced were trendy new restaurants, young couples, families pushing strollers and walking dogs, and the occasional Chasidic Jew asking me if I needed Shabbat candles for that night (I guess I look Jewish). But since we DID read the news, we knew, day after day, that there was yet another anti-semitic attack of someone on the street, or a horror taking place in the Orthodox community at one of the Rabbi’s homes, literally in our neighborhood or a couple of miles away. Two stories happening at the same time… amazing pasta and cabernet and croissants without a care in the world, AND suffering… all in the same place.
Last week, when the situation with Iran started to unravel, a popular MSNBC news show host talked about two realities, two stories happening at the same time… a “split screen” that we are all going to have to get used to, because the news is so eventful in this time in history, we can’t possibly focus on only one story at a time. The split screen was, yes, literal, but my gal, Rachel, was also suggesting that our brains are going to have to be split screens, because that’s how the world works these days.
With the secular New Year now come and gone, a time when nearly the entire human population thinks about starting over and new goals, we can accept this split screen, but rather than allow it to cause us insanity, invite it to carry us through these interesting times. On one side, yes… awareness, reality, caution, understanding, even fear. But on the other side… balance and hope… dogs and babies and croissants.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that while we were staying in New York, we went to see the most recent, and theoretically, final Star Wars movie. And what is the thread through all 9 movies? Hope. As Gyn says in Rogue One, “Rebellions are built on hope.”
For several decades, we, as Jews (or those of us who love and live with Jews), didn’t have to “hope” too much as a peoplehood. We were pretty settled, except for certain activities here and there. We weren’t in the news all the time. We didn’t find ourselves oddly unsurprised when we heard of an anti-semetic action. In fact, we were shocked at such a thought. We didn’t have to hope. But now, it’s time to take hope out, dust it off, and experience just a little taste of what some of us or our parents or grandparents had to feel when outward anti-semitism was more normal and expected around the world. When one of them, maybe on the streets of Brooklyn, on their way to school, got knocked down and called “Dirty Jew,” they got back up, dusted off their backpacks, and marched on… with hope. And so we will have to do again. We need hope that this bizarre chapter in our history will evolve into a new one decorated with more acceptance and civility. Hope that there will be a time of healing for our country, when we can see and hear each other again. Hope that our leaders will eventually have the “beytzim,” (which means eggs and is, I just learned, the polite way of saying testicles in Hebrew, to stand up and call out madness when they see it. It’s here, around the corner. It’s the message of Chanukah, of Pesach, of, on this weekend, Martin Luther King, even of Star Wars… rebellions are built on hope. In Egypt. In Jerusalem. In Selma. On Yavin 4. And yes, in Brooklyn and Los Angeles.
I hope you have many ways that in the New Year you might choose to start over and improve yourselves or the world. And I invite you to welcome the split screen rather than be afraid of it. Yes, be informed. Yes, march and donate and volunteer and cry when you need to. And then when you need a break, focus on the other side… the side that says there is hope and beauty in the future. It’s exactly what our ancestors and Martin Luther King and Gyn from Star Wars would want us to do.
To quote Martin Luther King Jr. on this eve of his celebration weekend,
“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”