Rabbi's Message - March 8, 2022
We begin a new chapter this week. Or, better yet, a new book - Leviticus. And we do so under the backdrop of Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat of Remembrance that recalls the attack by Amalek on the Israelites with an additional reading from Deuteronomy 25:17-19. This special reading includes the commandments to blot out the memory of Amalek and to never forget the way he attacked those who were unable to defend themselves.
Leviticus is steeped in the traditions of the priesthood. It lifts up the concept of holiness; the word “holy,” kadosh, appears over 100 times. In it we are taught to think of holiness not just in terms of God’s holiness, but our own call to holiness. “You shall be holy because I, Adonai your God, am holy.” In Leviticus we are called (Vayikra) to act righteously. We find examples in it such as commandments to leave some of the harvest for gleaning by the poor, to not withhold the wages of a laborer until the next day, and to not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block in the way of the blind.
Leviticus reminds us that we best heed our call to holiness when we think not just of ourselves, but of those around us. We need not only care about those at the front of the Israelite army with the most strength, but also those stragglers at the end. We must protect them from the dangers that come when evil powers seek to destroy the innocent. It is our responsibility to speak truth to power, to recognize injustice and call it out.
If we haven’t already been paying attention, we are called this week, more than ever, to support the Ukrainian refugees that are seeking asylum and humanitarian aid. How could we possibly look the other way or bury our heads in the sand while the Ukrainians, Jewish and non-Jewish, face their own Amalek? The crisis is urgent and, as Jews, we must join the effort to offer support. Please, if you haven’t already done so, consider supporting the work of the WUPJ, HIAS, Tikva Odessa, JDC, Kavod Tzedakah, or your own preferred help organization.
As we enter into our Shabbat Zachor and begin, again, to hear the call for holiness, we pray for a peaceful end to this war and commit ourselves to do our best to ensure the safety of those who are the most vulnerable.