One of my teachers suggests that the two most powerful words in the Torah appear as Aaron's response to the death of his two sons: וידם אהרן "VaYidom Aharon". A literal translation might be, "Aaron was stilled" [Lev 10:13]. This was my own personal response to the news that the Healthcare bill passed in the House. The news was chilling, like receiving news that someone has died. Perhaps because data suggests that this bill will cause death, pain and suffering.
And yet the rabbi's are not clear on the meaning of Aaron's overly concise response. It is often translated as "Aaron fell silent," as tho he was stunned into silence, literally speechless perhaps in shock. Yet others suggest it means, "And Aaron held his peace;" a kind of equanimous response to devastating news. And finally, one ancient translation interprets it as, "Aaron praised God." Lest anyone in government forget who in truth is Adon Olam, Sovereign Power of the Universe, the Source of Life and Death. Aaron affirms his connection to his higher power not those in power.
I am keenly aware that this bill if passed into legislation would impact us personally. I can imagine that we as a community encompass all of these responses. And so I want to challenge myself and all of us to move through shock and silence, and to recommit to staying centered and connecting to the good in our lives; to rise out of stillness and into action. There is so much we can and will do to mobilize our community and prevent this bill from gaining further ground in the Senate.
And luckily this is one of those weeks when the Torah portion seems divinely inspired to respond to political reality. We are called to study a double-portion. The first of which is Acharei Mot, literally, "After the death." It begins with Aaron's actions after the death of his two sons. I keep hearing it has "After the death of healthcare in the U.S." And then we read Kedoshim - The Holiness Code. Which speaks to each and every soul, each of us burdened by the condition of being human, and instructs us that we are called to embody holiness; to live a life of dignity, honor and kindness in relationship to ourselves, our family, our community and the land. This too is a kind of peaceful response to suffering and a call to action. Remember that you are holy. Act in a way that honors the holiness in all life.
I invite you tomorrow to join us as we do just that - connect, celebrate and fundraise to build the world we want to see in our community.
Shabbat Shalom To All!
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.