As we approach the election, I hope that all of us will exercise our freedom to vote. If you have any challenges or know of people who are confused about how to vote, where to vote, whether to mail a ballot, vote in person, drop a ballot off, or whatever, please help them find answers to their questions. For those voting in Loudoun County, this is a useful source of answers: https://www.loudoun.gov/4117/Elections-Voter-Registration Whatever your political position is, this year does mark one of the most important elections in our lifetime.
Speaking of the election, I don't know how many of you saw the recent feature in Parade magazine about how 100 people responded to the prompt: "If I Were President." Many of us have strong opinions about the ways in which our elected officials do their jobs. But think about it for a minute...what if you were the president? What would you do? What would your priorities be? What is the one thing that you would want to be your legacy?
Since I read the article, I thought of three things that would be my top priorities. I share these with you because of the Torah portions we are now reading. Having completed the first portion of Genesis, dealing with creation, I would convene scientists from all over the world to look at the best ways to be sure that we take care of the earth. There are lots of opinions about climate change and I would want a non partisan scientific summit to address our world and what we can do to be sure to create a safe planet for our children and grandchildren.
Secondly, I would convene a group of religious leaders (no surprise here...) to discuss gender equality. The story of Adam and Eve and what roles men and women play, continue to raise challenging issues as we continue to create a more equitable world for all people.
Thirdly, I would convene a major conference to deal with economic inequities and what we can do to address the issues of racial tension that permeate our country. As we read about the violence that filled the world when Noah built the Ark, I don't think we can retreat into a safe space and watch the world be flooded with violence. We must figure out the root causes of racism and other prejudices.
Now, anyone reading this could offer numerous issues that you would raise if you were the President and I hope you will share them with the congregational leadership. Perhaps we can schedule a number of adult educational programs to address the Jewish perspective on issues that are important to us.
As I write this, I think that a number of you probably would bring together the best and the brightest to work on a vaccine for the corona virus. I would like to believe that scientists throughout the world are working on this and soon we will see results.
Stay well and safe and please don't hesitate to contact me if the stress of virtual learning, being confined to your homes, working remotely, and other challenges of dealing with the virus are overwhelming you. It is a hard time and there are folks that can support all of us during these difficult times.
Rabbi Bruce Aft
As we begin to read the Torah again, I wanted to share one of the most important verses in the Torah with you.
I think we are all familiar with the verse that provides the basis for the Golden Rule. "Love your neighbor as yourself" is the core of many religious traditions. Rabbi Hillel expounded upon this by saying "what is hateful to you, don't do to others...."
In a world that is torn apart by hatred and strife, I think we all struggle with loving our neighbor. However I want us to think about loving our enemies.
In an article by Colbert King in the Washington Post recently, he quotes Rev. Martin Luther King who said, "that within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. The person who hates you most, has some good in him...Even the race that hates you most has some good in it." He goes on to say "you love the individual who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does." (from a Sermon by MLK on Nov. 17, 1957 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama)
I hope that we will think about these words as we dialogue with each other about those with whom we disagree and as we confront those that would hate the good.
Perhaps we can begin a conversation with those who would try to tear us apart and see if we can find a way to build bridges instead of walls.
Rabbi Bruce Aft
As we celebrate Sukkot, I hope that you will find these words to be meaningful. Please listen to the version of the song Olam Chesed Yibaneh from Rabbi Creditor here.
As the Sukkah we build is built with love, may our actions lead to a world filled with love. As the Sukkah reminds us of the instability of the huts in the wilderness, we are living in a world that needs our efforts to make it strong and safe for all of us.
Chag Sukkot Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce Aft
As we prepare to celebrate the holiest day of the year, I want to wish everyone a g'mar hatimah tovah, may we all be sealed for a healthy, safe new year.
I wanted to share a poem that Sherri Shunfenthal, a congregant of Adat Reyim, wrote. (See below) As we continue to remember Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I hope we will continue to work for the rights of all human beings. When we say, may her memory be for a blessing, we honor her through making sure that her deeds live on and that her work on behalf of all of us will continue to inspire future generations to work for human rights.
My mother used to say, "Easy over the fast." I hope that everyone has a meaningful fast.
Rabbi Bruce Aft
The Tent at Rosh Hashanah
The coolness of the air tickled my face.
The crisp air awakened me
as I sat under an open tent for Rosh Hashana day.
This was such a new experience - seated outside
instead of in the sanctuary, several feet apart
all wearing protective masks. Though distanced,
we felt the closeness of coming together.
A swift gust of wind transported me to biblical times.
and I felt as if I was sitting in Abraham’s tent
open on all sides. Open to visitors, those in need, open to life.
And while transported back in time I was also hearing birdsong
mixing with the cantor singing and hearing
traffic passing by mixed with the gentle rustling of leaves.
Past, present and future blended together.
I reached to Abraham in fervent prayer. I asked:
“Abraham, Please, what do we need to know now?”
He answered: All people matter. All are essential
– the cleaner who wipes surfaces chasing Covid,
the ones who fix the roads, the grocery worker
the trash collector, the fire fighter, the nurses and doctors,
the volunteers, even the politicians.
Open your tent and your heart. Welcome the stranger
Regardless of economic status, color,
political persuasion, race, religion, gender.
Work together. Human dignity for all.
And as we all stood for the next prayer, I thought
Together we stand. Divided we will fall.
Sherri Waas Shunfenthal 9/21/2020