Legacy: From Yesterday to Today and for Tomorrow

Rabbi's Message - January 11, 2022

Rabbi Tina Sobo

The proximity of Tu Bishvat (the 15th of Shevat, essentially what has become “Jewish Earth Day”) and the national recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. is fairly common based on the inner workings of both calendars.   That said, these two days are very different from one another.  Most would connect the two holidays based on their shared theme of tikkun olam (repairing the world).  Dr. King' s vision and leadership were staples in the Civil Rights Movement to advance equality and justice in our world.  Tu Bishvat, the Birthday of the Trees, is born out of a Jewish legal need to know how old a tree is.  This information tells us what tithes are necessary and if it is permissible to eat its fruit.  The holiday has grown to be a day about paying attention to our dependence on the earth and mindfulness of using its bounty; thus its ecological and environmental themes tie in with issues of climate change and sustainability quite nicely.

I’d like to focus on a different connection: legacy.  Dr. King had a dream, a vision, that we would be seen as peers and not judged by the color of our skin.  He sought to leave his mark on this world to create, without violence, enough pressure to cause systemic change.  We inherited this legacy, and strive to march it at least a few steps forward towards fruition to bring equality, to bring equity, to all in our days.  On Tu Bishvat, we tell the story of Honi the Circle Maker (from Taanit 23a) who questions the purpose of a man planting a carob tree (known to not reliably bear fruit for many years), when he himself won’t benefit from the tree.  The lesson of the story is that the seeds we plant today are what we leave for the next generation, just as the past generations planted for us.

As we enter this weekend into “Shabbat Tzedek” – Justice Shabbat - may we reflect on the legacies of those who came before us and benefits they provide today.  Let us also think about the legacy of the actions we engage in today and how they impact the next generation.  May this world be a little bit better because we were in it.

Pursuing the Work of Justice

Shabbat Tzedek

Rabbi’s Message – January 12, 2021

Rabbi Tina Sobo

This coming weekend we will honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his efforts in the Civil Rights movement.  We come to this MLK weekend and Shabbat Tzedek, our Justice Shabbat, after many challenges to human dignity and rights have manifested since this time last year.  For me, the call to continue the work of Dr. King has never been stronger to bring peace and unity to our country.  Jewish tradition has long stood to protect the rights of the vulnerable among us.

With Parashat Va-eira, we are at the beginning of our retelling of the Exodus story, and therefore also the numerous reminders in the Torah to protect the orphans, widows, and poor among us because we were slaves in Egypt and know their plight.  These portions of the population were the most vulnerable in their time and we hear these verses today to protect not just these groups, but others that are most vulnerable in society.  

At Rosh Hashanah, I preached that we must, during this pandemic, remember that we are all in the same storm of the current situation, but we are not all in the same boats.  Some boats are better able to withstand the storm than others.  There are many storms around us, and just because my boat is doing well, does not mean that I don’t have a duty to help others weather the storm as well.  We are now deeper into the pandemic experience than we were when I spoke those words.  We have seen more acts of racial injustice, actions that endanger the health of others amid the pandemic, and many others.  I sit at my desk, in my warm house, safe from the cold weather, safe from COVID exposure, with the privilege of white skins, food security, financial security, and the support of family.  It would be all too easy to tune out from the news and carry on with my family of five here.  

As we join together with our friends from Omega Baptist Church this weekend, even though we cannot physical sit side by side, it is more important than ever to strengthen our connections with one another and to be each other’s support as we weather the storms of 2021 together.  Please join me on Friday night at 6:30 p.m., via our special Zoom link, as we worship together and hear the sage words of Pastor Joshua Ward, and again on Sunday morning at 10:15 a.m. for the live-streamed worship at Omega, with a sermon delivered by our own Rabbi Bodney-Halasz.

Our Covenant with the World

Rabbi’s Message – June 16, 2020

Our Covenant with the World

Last fall, with the support of our Board of Directors, Temple Israel signed on as a “Brit Olam” congregation of the Religious Action Center.  Brit Olam translates to covenant with our world” and is a promise to create a world in which all people experience wholeness, justice, and compassion.   In Pirkei  Avot we are taught: “Study alone is not enough, our tradition demands action.”   Brit Olam is our commitment to actively work for social justice.  By signing this covenant, we promised to foster a culture of sacred and civil dialogue in our community where all opinions are heardact in solidarity with vulnerable communities, build relationships across lines of difference in our local community, act at the local, state/provincial, and/or federal levels to address the root causes of injustice, advocate for systemic change, mobilize around issues that resonate with our community, and participate in state-specific social justice work with RAC-Ohio.   

We hear the voices all over the world proclaiming the urgency of this work.   We must continue to fight against racism and other forms of injustice, even if we are unable to physically do it togetherWe need to begin conversations about what this might look like.  Join me in this effort.  If you are interested in these conversations and becoming more meaningfully involved in social justice, contact me.  You may email me at rabbi@tidayton.org or leave me a voice message at the TempleAnd if you want to dive in now, I strongly urge you to participate in the YWCA’s 21 day Racial Equity and Social Justice Challenge, which begins on Friday.  This is a great step toward deepening your understanding of systemic racism in America.  May every step we take bring us closer to fulfilling the work of Brit Olam.  To learn more about the Union for Reform Judaism’s Brit Olam communities, visit www.rac.org/britolam.