March 31, 2023
Monday was a day filled with both relief and turmoil. For weeks, we have watched hundreds of thousands of Israelis gather to protest the proposed judicial changes that would empower the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament) to overturn any judicial decision, thus rendering the existence of Israel’s Supreme Court frivolous. Over the years, the court has served as a check on governmental decisions that have subdued the rights of women, minorities, non-Orthodox Jews and more. When Prime Minister Netanyahu asked his Defense Minister Yoav Galant to step down over remarks he made that the proposed judicial changes were a threat to Israel’s security, Israelis elevated their protest causing a national strike, the military refusing to show up, the shutdown of Ben Gurion airport, and more. Israelis from all walks of life, secular, Orthodox, left wing, right wing, center showed up to protest. My Facebook feed was filled with photos from friends and family who did not want to see this change happen. On Monday we received word that the proposed changes would be delayed until the Knesset resumes its session in May thus allowing Passover and Israel’s 75th birthday to happen with joy and celebration, rather than turmoil. The work, though, is not over.
Rabbi Dani Gordis, an American-born rabbi, who has lived in Israel for years has called this the most important week in Israel’s history. Israelis showed up and protested peacefully, allowing ambulances through when they needed to get to those in need. There was no looting, no violence. In some ways, it was an accomplishment that only Israelis would have the chutzpah to achieve. In a few weeks, when we gather to celebrate Israel, it will be important for us to remember the joyful moments along with the challenging moments that have enabled Israel to survive and thrive for three-quarters of a century.
Soon after this relief, came the turmoil of yet another school shooting, this time in a private Presbyterian school. Again, children were murdered. We remember the 6 lives lost and we ask ourselves, is this the world we want for our children? The trauma they feel is palpable. How can we keep living like this and what can we do about it?
In the coming week, we will sit down at our seder tables, and we will think about how we, ourselves, personally went forth out of Egypt. In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitzrayim, meaning “narrow space.” What are the times and spaces that are narrow that constrict our freedom? The seder is a time for us to sit, reflect and be joyful. And it is also a time to say to ourselves, what can we do to work for all those who find themselves in a narrow place? The Torah reminds us that we should lift up the cause of the orphan, the widow, or the stranger. In modern times, these groups equate to any marginalized group. Let us find our cause, whether it is gun violence, hunger, homelessness, and more. May we also get up and do the sacred work of bringing about freedom for everyone in this world who suffers at the hand of an oppressor.
I hope you will join us for a special Shabbat this evening, Shabbat Shirei Aviv. For the past few weeks, Julie Sapper, our Director of Musical Programming, has been working with a group of singers to present special songs for this season. As spring arrives, and the flowers and buds begin to bloom, our hearts look towards this beautiful music to bring us joy.
Rabbi Rick Kellner