Rabbi – December 2016

Repairing The World

Rabbi ElkodsiThe recent election has brought out the best and the worst in people. The campaigning was the most negative I can remember personally, but the concept of “mud-slinging” in a campaign isn’t new.

According to the website “floppingaces.com,” in 1800 [Thomas] Jefferson hired a writer named James Callender to attack President Adams. [Callender] wrote that John Adams is “a repulsive pedant,” a “gross hypocrite,” and “a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” So much for those “good old days”.

Whether you’re happy with the outcome of the election or not, I think we can all agree that things are going to be uncertain for a while. Uncertainly is frightening, it creates anxiety. Change isn’t easy for most people, whether it’s a new president or a new melody in services. How do we cope?

We know empirically that stress and anxiety can cause a whole host of physical and emotional problems; it raises our blood pressure, thickens and sends cholesterol into our blood, and makes us irritable. Some stress and anxiety is good, it’s what keeps us on our toes when we need to be, and can serve as a catalyst for change.

How we cope with stress and anxiety is also important. Many people look to their clergy, faith communities and civic leaders for guidance. We don’t necessarily have the answers, but we do have tools and resources to draw upon.

For me, those resources are often teachings from our sacred literature-the Torah, Prophets, Talmud and other writings – along with the examples set by others. The photo of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel standing with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King in Alabama comes to mind when I think about my role and responsibility as a rabbi.

I have colleagues who are heavily involved in social justice organizations and regularly participate in protest activities. I admire their commitment, and I strongly believe that each of us is required to work towards a just and inclusive society. I have often said that being created b’tzelem elo-him, in the Divine image, means that humans are God’s partners in tikkun olam, “repairing the world.”

Tikkun olam
takes many forms, from recycling and composting to building water purification systems in a developing country and plenty of things in between. No one person can do everything, but every person can do something. Lo alecha ha-m’lacha ligmor, v’lo atah ben chorin l’bateil mimena, “It is not up to you to finish the task, but you are not free to not start it.”

Heschel and others taught that we must “pray with our feet.” For some it means getting out and marching, for others it means giving to an organization that helps others. Still others will get out and volunteer their time and energy, or join a group committed to inclusiveness and creating community.

I want the Malverne Jewish Center to continue to be a place where community is created and maintained, where we embrace those who come to us seeking a Jewish home. We are already part of the broader community, supporting the kosher food pantry and being involved in activities in the Village of Malverne.

May we be blessed with the strength and energy to continue our work, may we have the wisdom and discernment to engage in thoughtful, respectful conversation with others, and may we continue to be or la goyim, “a light to the nations.”

And speaking of light, my best wishes for a joyous Hanukkah!

Rabbi Susan Elkodsi