Posts Tagged ‘Parkland’

Becoming a Menorah for a Holy Flame

I delivered this sermon for Parshat T’tzaveh on Friday evening, February 23, 2018.

We read in this week’s Torah portion, Parshat T’tzaveh, “And you shall command the children of Israel, that they bring unto you pure olive oil beaten for the light, to cause a lamp to burn continually (neir tamid).”  And there it is, the neir tamid in our Temple.  Every synagogue has one – a light that burns eternally in good times and bad, in an empty building and a full one, whether we see it or whether we choose to look away.  It has been a pretty dark week.  Stories of the horror of what went down in that high school in Parkland, FL, continue to abound.

At first it looked a lot like what we’ve seen every other time this happened.  One group offers their “thoughts and prayers.”  The other say the time for thoughts and prayers has ended and we must act.  One side accuses the other of politicizing a tragedy.  The other replies – if not now, when? 

But this time does feel different to me.  This time, we are hearing the voices of protest, not completely, but at least in part, from the full range of the political spectrum.  This time we hear the cries differently through the thoughtful, articulate, and enraged voices of our youth and we cannot help but see in their eyes our own sisters, cousins, friends, and children.

Some have tried to dehumanize and distance themselves from these voices by engaging in conspiracy theories that these children are nothing more than paid actors.  Fortunately, for the most part, I think that those who believe this are roundly scorned.  Because this time is different.  Our children are crying out for our help.  Our children want us to wake them from this nightmare.  Our children will rise up and fight the fight for us if they must. 

There are two themes in this week’s Torah portion.  The concept of the neir tamid – the eternal light of holiness that must, through effort, be kept pure and burning continually is the first.  The second is a lengthy description of the clothing of the High Priest.  From his undergarments to his decorative breastplate, we learn about the intricacies of every thread of this sacred garment.  The thing is though, underneath this outfit – the priest is still a man.  If he didn’t wear it, you would not know that he was a priest. 

I am struck, this week, by these children who have suddenly donned sacred garments and become the vessels of the neir tamid.  They appeared to be nothing but ordinary, self-absorbed teenagers, but this tragedy has adorned them and changed them and I doubt that we, as country, will ever be the same.  They are our light.  They are showing us the path.  Cameron Kasky, a junior who survived the shooting said, “This isn’t about red and blue.  We can’t boo people because they’re democrats and boo people because they’re republicans.  Anyone who’s willing to show change, no matter where they’re from.  Anyone willing to start to make a difference is somebody we need on our side here.” 

And they have something that most of us have lost – hope.  These teens expect to win, and because they do, they actually might.  We never told them that you can’t win against the NRA – most of us have practically given up the fight before it even begins – leaving the gate from a position of severe compromise.  Emma Gonzalez said, “If you actively do nothing, people continually end of dead, so it’s time to start doing something.”  They don’t care that it has never worked before.  They don’t care what people say or think about them.  They are showing us all what being awake, alive, and furious can accomplish. 

Can we come together for their sake?  Can we learn from what they have to teach us?  These children have been lit up by this tragedy, but a fire must be kept burning.  A fire must be tended and supported and helped.  If these students are to change our country, they cannot do it alone.  It is up to us to support them, help them, work with them.  They are the fire – we must be the menorah.

I posted earlier this week on facebook, that this was not the time for thoughts and prayers.  I recant that statement.  A prayer is a guided wish.  A prayer reminds us what is truly important, and if our prayers mean anything at all – they lead us to work as partners with G-d to make change.

Shabbat shalom.

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