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Parashat Shemini

April 9, 2021
27 Nisan 5781
Parashat Shemini
Leviticus 9:1 - 11:47

Dear Friends,

When Shabbat comes in, we have been taught not to mourn; indeed, the mourner is given time off from formally mourning for the twenty-five hours of Shabbat. Shabbat is a time of joy, a time of gratitude, a moment to reflect upon that which is good in our lives and express our gratitude. We do it by eating special foods, adorning our homes with flowers, and by resting and refraining from labor.

This Shabbat, the Shabbat following Yom HaShoah, resonates differently with me. It is a time of memory when the world as it exists in this moment intrudes. Each year, as we light a memorial light in memory of the six million, I am struck by our inability to take in the enormity of what happened and how it happened across so many borders, tearing apart lives and working to diminish the holy spark in each of those affected. With so few survivors left, their words ring out more than ever. Interestingly, many of their words are not simply about the horrors they witnessed and experienced; rather they are about the fear and hate that came before the violence.

This past week President Biden designated this week as Days of Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust. His proclamation was signed the same day as the Claims Conference, the nonprofit dedicated to securing compensation for Holocaust survivors worldwide, created the campaign called “It started with words.” According to the organizers, this timely campaign is not about the Holocaust itself but about the rhetoric and hateful words used against the Jewish community leading up to the start of World War II.

As Jews, we value the power of language -- words matter. Feathers strewn about are used as metaphor for the words we cannot retract. Once said, they fly everywhere. Causing shame to another is one of the worst things we can do, and our words have the power to do that and so much more.

We are here at a moment in time where hateful language abounds, be it about Asians, African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, and of course about Jews. How do we stand up to this? How do we use this Yom Hashoah, even as we tell our personal stories, as an opportunity to stand up for one another and speak? In the past there was silence, and that silence was deadly. We cannot afford to let that happen again. We are, as always, stronger together.

Shabbat Shalom
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Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Thu, May 6 2021 24 Iyyar 5781