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Rabbi Lauren's Blog

06/16/2017 03:11:14 PM


Dear Hevre,
One of Judaism's most central principles, and one of the ideas that has shaped and nourishes our own Jewish neshama (soul), is the concept of B'tselem Elohim, that all human beings are made in the Divine image. For those who do not resonate with "divinity" language, we can also think of this concept as the idea that each created being has value, that each person is of worth and is deserving of dignity.
This principle is not without its challenges or tensions. For example, how do we reconcile this principle with those who do evil and harmful things to others, to those who have oppressed us personally or as a group? This often comes up with those in power with whom we not only disagree with, but see as acting in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others. Even in those moments, the concept of Btselem Elohim stands - and we are challenged to seek out the human dignity of that other. If we cannot find that, we are potentially lost, living in a world of "us" and "them," valuing some lives and not others.
As we all know, this week, a gunman, Steve Hodgkinson, opened fire on a group of elected officials, leaving Representative Steve Scalise in critical condition. It has surfaced that this person was a disgruntled citizen, angry at the President and his policies.
I believe that this man was acting alone and that he was not incited to violence. I also have learned that he is a person with a violent history, particularly against women-- while not an excuse, that may help us understand why his frustration led to such a horrible, violent act.
I also believe it is important that we not let this go only as an act of "one disturbed person" rather utilize this moment as one of self-reflection about the ways in which we "other" the other. We live in a culture where the divisions between "us" and "them" are growing more intense by the day. So many of us are filled with anger and mistrust. While I hope and pray that none of us would resort to these horrible, utterly intolerable and unacceptable means, there may be other moments where we delegitimize and dehumanize another person. Where we attack a person's character instead of attacking their positions.
As people know, I have very strong feelings about what is happening in our country right now. I will continue to fight for human dignity for those who are poor and vulnerable that is threatened by the coming health care vote and other legislation that has and will come down the road. I will continue to stand up for the human dignity of Muslims and the undocumented and for our own Jewish community that is threatened by a culture and by policies that promote hate. But if I cannot see the humanity in those I disagree with, no matter how fiercely I do, I am lost. I am traveling down a dangerous path. We must hold both our truths and passions alongside a care and compassion and an upholding of dignity of all.
This Shabbat, I will be praying for Senator Scalise's healing in the Mi Sheberach prayer. I hope you will also hold him and all those affected by this incident, the police and the others who were caught in the crossfire, in your hearts as well.
With many, many blessings and prayers for a better world, 
Rabbi Lauren



Mon, June 25 2018 12 Tammuz 5778