August 18, 2017
26 Av 5777
Candle lighting: 7:13 p.m.
I am horrified by the events that took place in Charlottesville this past weekend, when a Neo Nazi protest, fueled by senseless hatred and defamation of God, turned violent and tragically took the life of an anti protester. Everything that has transpired in its aftermath thus far, has only made it worse. We live in world with a diversity of faiths and opinions, which at times can be difficult and confusing to navigate. But that is not an excuse.
In our Torah portion this week, Moses warns the Israelites about some of the challenges that they will face while living among diverse people in a foreign land. He tells them that they need to be wary of false prophets and of people who invoke the name of God to commit atrocities as they spread their message of fear and hate throughout the land.
Moses instructs the Israelites that they cannot just sit by and do nothing, they must “sweep the evil out from their midst.” This task was incredibly difficult for them as they were navigating the complexities of living as a minority in a diverse society during biblical times. It is a task that still challenges us, as we try to navigate the complexities, and contradictions that exist in the diverse and free society that we live in today.
Neo-Nazis and members of the KKK marching in the streets, chanting anti Semitic and racial slurs and inciting violence is terrifying. Defending their actions, while vilifying those who tried to stand up against them, is painful and difficult. This is not a political issue, but a Jewish one. This is Evil. No if ands or buts about it. Like the Israelites in our Torah portion, we have an obligation to sweep evil away, to call it out when we see it and stand up for what is right.
Many of us may feel confused, angry, and sad, that there is still so much evil in our midst. It is important for us to come together, be together, and support one another as we grapple with the realities of the world we live in, one which is still filled with so much hate.
My thoughts and prayers are with Heather Heyer, the other victims of the protests, and their families. It is my hope and prayer that we continue to be a source of support and comfort for one another as we begin to rebuild in the aftermath of such destruction.
May we find the strength and courage we need, to work together, to “sweep the evil out from under our midst.” And in moments like this, may we remember the advice of the prophet Micah “What is good? What is it that God wants from us? To act justly, love kindness, and walk humbly in God’s ways.”
Rabbi Joshua Dorsch
To read an archive of Rabbi Dorsch’s D’var Torah click here.