I hope you all had a fantastic and meaningful Passover. As many of us sat at our Seders, we found ways to make the story of our people leaving Egypt more accessible and “modern.”
We found analogies to slavery and bondage in modern life, like addiction and stress and anxiety.
For me, this is the true genius of Judaism. The lessons from Torah and our Sages are absolutely vital to today’s world. Perhaps this means that human beings are basically the same, which has both positive and negative connotations. I would like to think we have evolved… have attained a higher and more spiritual level, though watching the news and seeing the brutality of some humans makes me question that. There is still the barbaric and ancient violence, in terms of decapitation and a more current take with chemical weapons.
One of the struggles I have always had with Torah was that there are elements of barbaric behavior, things that we no longer do, like live sacrifices and stoning.
“The Torah prescribes death as punishment for a number of serious sins — among them murder, idol worship and desecrating the Sabbath — as well as several seemingly less serious ones, like serially disobeying one’s parents. In practice, however, death sentences were rarely carried out by Jewish courts.”
But according to the same article on MyJewishLearning.com: “The rabbis of the Talmud discussed the legal requirements of capital punishment at great length, establishing significant barriers that made such a sentence extremely difficult to carry out.”
This is not the path I am going down today, but I wanted it said that I struggle with many things in our teachings. And what gives me hope, is that this is also the crux of Judaism… Struggle… Debate… Discussion… Jews dig into every single word, trying to extract every single, possible meaning. From the Sanhedrin to our Rabbis today, we strive to become learned and wiser. We try to connect as closely as we can to Hashem’s true meaning and path for all of us, but realize that what we were given is a blueprint… a blueprint that allows and encourages and demands for us to be active participants… active builders in making life on earth fulfilled and meaningful.
I accept, and not blindly, that there are many things I may not fully understand. I reach out and question whenever I feel something uncomfortable. But I am also invigorated and inspired at the many lessons that give me a very clear understanding on just how to live and behave.
All of this was inspired by the passage in Exodus 23:1 and 23:2…
“You shall not accept a false report; do not place your hand with a wicked person to be a false witness.”
“You shall not follow the majority for evil, and you shall not respond concerning a lawsuit to follow many to pervert justice.”
While I will delicately dance around current politics, the lesson is a clear and imperative one. We need to pursue truth and justice. We must not blindly follow those who will mislead us with lies and deceit. Sometimes the truth is a puzzle, and it is up to us to put it all together… and for ourselves. It may be an involved, detailed and laborious process, and it may take time, but the truth MUST BE pursued… ALWAYS.
In today’s world, sadly, it takes a real effort to move past the bluster and hyperbole and source out what is real and what is not. He who screams the loudest and doth protest too much is not always right… in fact, that person is usually on the wrong side of things. Torah teaches us humility and when to speak and when to hold our tongue. Torah teaches us to ALWAYS know before whom we stand.
We must remember that there is much in the world that is black and white, clear as day… but there are also many colors… and a multitude of greys, which are much harder to delineate.
Look at the blueprint… learn the lessons… take in all that is there, and act with kindness and the goal of always doing the right thing… and be truthful!
As the wise Mark Twain once said: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
And as our genius Torah says, as stated above… do not stand with liars or accept their lies… or follow the majority for evil… a timeless lesson, as old as time.