Democracy, Humility, and Parashat Mishpatim

Our weekly community created prayer reads, “Help me to remember that we are all made in Your Image.  Give me discernment to seek the Spark of the Divine that exists in everyone and find it in those most different from me, so I can learn again.”

I learned a lesson and I want to come clean about something.  Last month at services, I made an error…  I let my nerves and my own political views get the better of me.  We are a broad community with differing political views, and I value that.

If we all live in our own silos, and we don’t talk across the aisles with people with whom we don’t agree, we divide and weaken our country.  If we don’t talk to each other, we can’t learn from each other.

Two things happen to me when I stand before the congregation.  I feel the honor and responsibility of nurturing and growing our community, and quite honestly, I sometimes get flustered which is what happened last month.

A congregant had sponsored the oneg in honor of President Trump and I did not say that out loud.  Would I have had the same concerns if it was in honor of President Obama? I am not sure.  I was worried that our Shabbat services would become a playing field for politics and tried to skirt the issue, but I bungled it by saying nothing, and that was wrong.  I apologize, and I thank you for your support of Pnai Tikvah, and I respect your opinion.

This weekend sees democracy playing itself out in Las Vegas.  We are surrounded by people, many of whom have views different from ours, from the democratic candidates running around to the President himself.  They all have different ideas of what our society should look like… what should our society look like?

Our Torah portion, Mishpatim (ordinances) gives us an idea… by showing what has been foundational to what it has meant to be Jewish these last twenty centuries and more*.

  • We learn about the shmita year and how to treat the environment
  • about Shabbat
  • about making restitution for damage done by your livestock.
  • Not to wrong a stranger, “because you were slaves in Egypt.”
  • That if you take your neighbor’s garment as security for a loan, you must release it before sunset – because if your neighbor is so poor that they’re using a coat as security, they’ll likely need it back that night.
  • Against false rumors
  • Against animal cruelty by boiling a kid in its mother’s milk
  • Against subverting the rights of the needy
  • And about making restitution if you started a fire or if your animals damaged someone else’s land.

Mishpatim shows us a glimmer of what a just society looks like.

As democracy plays itself out around us, and Nevada plays its part in shaping the future of our country, let’s remember our community prayer

“Help me to remember that we are all made in Your Image.  Give me discernment to seek the Spark of the Divine that exists in everyone and find it in those most different from me, so I can learn again.”

*List excerpted from drash by Rabbi Nigel Savage.

 

 

 

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