Monday, February 24, 2014

Matters That Stand At The Top of the World

Matters That Stand At The Top of the World
From the Heart
Rabbi Gary S. Creditor

As the Bulletin deadline requires me to write this before the Gala weekend, I will leave reflections and other comments to my April and May columns. I have long contemplated the last column for June. A colleague much my senior many years ago gave me good inspiration for it.


In Hebrew there is a phrase to say that something is important: “D’varim ha-om-dim b’rumo ha-olam” – “Matters that stand at the top of the world.” Certainly each age can nominate their own. In these months my attention and involvement have been absorbed by immigration, marriage-rights, health coverage, women’s rights and gun control. The last of which I have extensively written and preached upon. It seems that every day guns are used in violent crime even when no one is killed. I am not swayed by the purported statistics that say gun violence is diminished. I have electronically badgered our representatives in every party, in the Legislature and the Congress about all these issues. The electronic forms automatically fill in my name and relevant details. Several years ago I was a member of the Board of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy. It became a springboard for my involvement with an organization called Common Ground which let to participation with Virginia Organizing.  The common denominator of these organizations is that they deal with “Matters That Stand At The Top of the World.” As a Jew I – we – have a vest interest in all of these issues, besides others.

What in Judaism demands our attention to these matters?

The answer is found in the Jewish vision of humanity. While contained in the Torah, Adam and Eve and Noah are not Jewish but rather representative of the Torah’s vision of humanity. When the prophets spoke, they enunciated the vision of justice, mercy and love that transcended Jewish interests and were universal.  They include the following:

1. Every human being is God’s child. Adam and Eve are the common progenitors of every human being. On that basis, everyone in the human race is family. The differences of language, color, gender, theology and ethnicity do not alter that fundamental belief. This in reinforced by two verses in the Torah.

2. “Love thy “ray-ah” as yourself.” The Hebrew word in quotes is usually translated “neighbor” but that is not accurate. It really means: “the one standing opposite you.” It doesn’t mean other Jews, it means anyone and everyone. We are commanded to love other people with the same level of self-concern with which we love ourselves.

3. “These are the generation of [Adam] [of humanity.” The Rabbis debated the two most important verses in the Torah and these chose the one above and this one, when you translate Adam not as Adam but as humanity. It re-emphasizes that the God of creation createdall human being, that there is a common thread that interweaves all human beings. This leads to the fundamental belief that no one is greater and no one less than the other. All are equal. All deserve equally. And those that have are obligated/commanded/ required to elevate those who do not.

4. Lastly: “Be holy.” It is hard to define the word ‘holy’ without using synonyms that just go around in circles. I try to explain it by saying that it links us to or reflects in us the divine image. It is not judged by the rituals I/we observe but rather by morals that sustain and undergird my/our being.

Even as I bring my pulpit Rabbinate to a close, these issues and our Jewish vision of humanity will sustain my involvement with these organizations as I continue to campaign for that which I feel is right and just as God and Torah teaches me. I urge your involvement on behalf of these issues and with these organizations. Perhaps we can make heaven a little bit here on earth. On the issue of ‘gay marriage’ we see a beginning. On the others, we have a long way to go.

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