Much ink is spilled over the nature of revelation at Sinai. Was it a thunderstorm or a whisper? What is just the tablets or the oral Torah too? But I think everyone would agree that at the very least there were ten utterances. Ten fundamental principles that we are obligated to live by. And while it is not first on the list that Moses brought down, there is one that is unequivocally primary in my theology.
Thou shalt not kill.
I imagine that your hearts are as heavy and broken as mine is with the recent events of police and citizen brutality against Black bodies in this country. None of this is new and all of it is devastating. At a time when everyone is feeling the impact of increased threat from COVID-19 (health-wise, financially, socially, etc.) we know that people of color, and Black people in particular, have always experienced an astronomically higher level of threat than white people. This moment is making this painfully clear yet again.
In the words of ada limón,
"You ever think you could cry so hard
that there’d be nothing left in you, like
how the wind shakes a tree in a storm
until every part of it is run through with
wind? I live in the low parts now, most
days a little hazy with fever and waiting
for the water to stop shivering out of the
body. Funny thing about grief, its hold
is so bright and determined like a flame,
like something almost worth living for."
We're approaching Shavuot, which means we're approaching Yizkor. It's so important to make space for grief, to mark it in time over and over again, to let it run through us like a current of water, changing everything, carving us anew. These days as mourning and mortality hang heavy over the whole world, and even more so in these days of devastation and fury over the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and thousands upon thousands of people who did not need to die. Who should not have died. Who should not have been lost to their families and communities.
Fierce, Black, Jewish prophetess of our times Yavilah McCoy shared this morning, "Tonight is Shavuot, and my belief and tradition will offer me a vortex that can transport me back to Sinai and a moment in time when all souls that ever were or ever would be a part of the Jewish people committed themselves - and their children, and their children, and their children's children - to the Torah. 'Thou shalt not kill!' is booming like thunder in my veins, and, like at Sinai, I am silent, I am listening, I am weeping in recognition, and I am committed."
The very first thing I did this morning was to call Mayor Jacob Frey to urge him to defund the Minneapolis Police Department, (612) 673-2100. And the very last thing I am going to do before I sign off is ask you to join me in taking tangible action. Here are important resources to guide you:
Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
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.