In Pirke Avot, we read that “In a place where no one is acting like a human being, be a human being.” My parents of blessed memory taught me that “mentschlikite” is the most important aspect of maturity.
Be a mentsch, be honest, do good, have integrity.
In our Torah portion this week, we find Moses confronting Pharaoh. But before appearing to Pharaoh, Moses says to God, …”The Israelites would not listen to me; how then should Pharaoh heed me, a man of impeded speech….”
Moses doesn’t quite understand why he is chosen to lead. A stutterer. He is saying why not pick someone who can sell this idea of freeing the Israelites to Pharaoh?
Of course, the Rabbis see the reason Moses is chosen. Moses is a Rodef Tzedek. A pursuer of righteousness. Moses, who kills an Egyptian taskmaster without regard to himself. He sees the evil of slavery before him and takes action.
So the question from this weeks Torah portion Va-era which not only tells of Moses confronting Pharaoh but lists the first six plagues that are cast upon Egypt. Plagues that we all know well from our reading of the Passover Haggadah. That question is are we pursuers of justice? Are we people of action who will step out of our comfort zone and stand up for what is right?
As a proud American Jew, I am horrified that our country, a country that decades ago rejected antisemitisim and demonization of “the other” is now fraught with bigotry and intolerance.
I believe that the majority of the people of America are good people. But we witnessed a national tragedy last week with the attempted coup in our nation’s Capitol. We saw t-shirts inscribed with “Camp Auschwitz and 6 Million were not enough.” Violence and intolerance are not the American way.
The rabbis also taught that the world is balanced on Truth, Justice and Peace. It is only when we as Americans as people of honesty and integrity, take action to bring about not only healing in our land but also peace within its borders.
Many of us who grew up in the Reform movement, know the translation of the Sim Shalom prayer, Grant us peace, your most precious gift, eternal source of peace. Bless our country that it may ever be a stronghold of peace and an advocate among the nations.
May our leaders, be people of honesty and integrity and bring our country to that vision, a stronghold of peace and an advocate of peace among the nations.