I am personally grateful that this raw and painful week is coming to a close. And that it will end with some precious time for us to take refuge in silence, song and community. Wherever you are, I encourage you to shut off the feed and find a way to nourish your soul. While none of this racist violence is new, it is nonetheless exhausting to encounter face to face (or on Facebook as the case may be).
For those who were able to be at The People's Baptist Church last night (and for those of you that did childcare so others could be), thank you. It was a very powerful experience to position ourselves in multiracial, multi-faith community and together denounce white supremacy, antisemitism, islamophobia, sexism and homophobia. More so, it was powerful to meet new people, sing out and receive the powerful insights of the Pastor Isaiah Banks.
If I were bold enough to title his sermon I would call it, "We need to have vision."* Which felt like the fulfillment of Divine grace in the room, knowing two things. First, that he did not know he would be speaking. And secondly, that this week's Torah portion, Re'eh, can literally be translated as "See!"
His call to all of us, whether we were in that room or not, is that we need to behold a vision of transformation and liberation. That peace and justice are not just practices of action but also radical imagination. That we must have the courage to see ourselves and each other more clearly. That we must be able to envision a world free of white supremacy.
I have been sitting with this teaching all day, trying to understand how to make it real and tangible. In this moment, what feels most true is that liberation is a creative act of the imagination. Let me explain.
It is said about our creation story that for each of the plants and animals, they are created min b'mino, with many kinds. Meaning that there are species of plants and animals. But not so with humans. We are all one. We are the only living thing created by the Holy One that is not named as min b'mino. There are not essential "kinds" of people. Said another way. The rabbis ask, Why was it so important that the first human being was created singularly, that there was only one Adam? To which they reply: So that no person could ever say to another, "My ancestors are better than yours!"
A belief in the oneness of all things and the dignity of every human being is at the core of my own theology embodied in these teachings. Creation itself, and our creativity is a product of imagination. How do we see the world? How do we see each other? Pastor Banks made it clear last night, we must have a vision of a world where no human being is better than another. Where all living are one and holy.
It is my prayer as we move into this Shabbat, that each of you find sanctuary. That you connect to your essential wholeness. That you allow yourself to imagine a world that is whole and just and entirely loving. And from that place, may we all emerge better able to envision how to get there.
I offer you all the closing words of a beloved poem by Marge Piercy that I shared last night.
Let us lift each other on our shoulders and carry each other along.
Let holiness move in us.
Let us pay attention to its small voice,
Let us see the light in others and honor that light.
Remember the dead who paid our way here dearly, dearly
and remember the unborn for whom we build our houses.
Praise the light that shines before us, through us, after us, Amen.
Rabbi Ari Lev
*The story the Pastor told from the New Testament was about a blind beggar asking for vision. I want to name the ableist nature of this story and reclaim vision here in the way I think the Pastor intended it - as metaphor - rather than the ability to see, which I do not believe is a prerequisite for our liberation.
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.