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January 10, 2020
13 Tevet 5780

Parashat Vayechi
Genesis 47:28 - 50:26

Dear Friends,

As many of you know, we do a monthly podcast with our teens called Tehillah Talks. These monthly conversations with our bright young people keep me grounded and reminds me of our obligation to the generations that follow us. This past Sunday, we recorded our latest conversation. Having just come back from the rally, it was foremost on my mind and, as my mother used to say, “What is on your mind is on your tongue.” Thus, our conversation was a somewhat heavy one, touching on antisemitism and so much more.

I gave them the Elie Wiesel quote, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

My takeaway from our conversation was how important it is in our climate not to be indifferent. But before we could go to that place, we had to explore the spaces in which we found indifference. We began to recognize the corrosive nature of indifference.

As often as I may say that love is an action verb, it is not enough. Indifference, turning away from that which is difficult or seemingly impossible to confront, is simply not an option we currently have.

By saying “No hate, no fear,” we are saying no to antisemitism. More than that, we are saying no to hate and indifference. When hate becomes normal, all is lost. If the swastika drawn in the bathroom of a school is normalized, we have become indifferent to hate. When a racial slur is used and we fail to hear it, we are indifferent. We are living in a time where hate is spewing in all directions. Now that the press is pointing out the increase in antisemitism, it may make us even more aware of the increase of all kinds of discriminatory acts. We are witnessing how we are all being marginalized. Someone on Sunday said that the Jew is the canary in the coal mine. Unfortunately, that canary has been singing for quite a while.

So what do we do? How do we fight this? First of all, indifference is totally unacceptable. In our conversation, our teens found the task before them quite daunting. Then, slowly, bit by bit, we began to clear a path -- not a very wide one, but still a path. We agreed that random acts of kindness might be a beginning out of the morass in which we find ourselves. It is not an answer to all that ails us, but by simply recognizing those around us as fellow human beings, each with their own concerns and their own story, we might just possibly begin to create bridges of understanding and of kindness.

This week’s Torah portion closes the first book -- Genesis. Vayechi (Genesis 47:28-50:26) means “and he lived,” referring to Jacob. Jacob is on his deathbed and he offers blessings to his children. He could most certainly rebuke them, but instead he uses this moment to see them for who they are and bless them. Amazingly, he has enough blessings for all of them.

This story is a timely message for all of us. There is enough love and kindness for all of us as long as we are not blinded by indifference. On the bridge this past Sunday, I saw hope manifested in the diversity of those walking beside me, and those speaking to those who had gathered. May we always hear one another’s voices alongside of our own.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Sat, September 19 2020 1 Tishrei 5781