The Opportunity to Mend the World

by Rabbi Audrey Pollack, February 1, 2017

Rabbi Ed Feinstein tells a wonderful story based on a classic Talmudic question: “how do we know when night has ended and the day has begun?” Eager to demonstrate their knowledge of Jewish law, ritual and prayer, the rabbi’s students give answers. But as each one in turn shares his response, the rabbi’s face looks sadder and sadder. Finally, with tears in his eyes, he shouts: “No, no, no! Not one of you understands! You only divide! You divide your house from the house of your neighbor, your field from your neighbor’s field… Is that all we can do–divide, separate, split the world into pieces?”

Friends, it seems when we look around us, that the world has become very fragmented, split into pieces. There are great divisions and separations in our world. Yet, our tradition teaches that we have the opportunity l’taken et ha’olam, (to do tikkun olam) to mend the brokenness in our world. There is no better way to do that then reaching out to our community, and finding ways to unite, making new friends, and seeing how much more we are like one another.

Here at Solel we are reaching out to our partners in the Muslim community to express our concern and support over the tragedy at the mosque in Quebec City and over the US immigration and travel ban. We are working with our students at Bet Sefer and the Urdu students to express our support and build bridges of connection.

The Jewish community has been well represented at the demonstrations at the US consulate in Toronto and many of my US rabbinic colleagues and members of their congregations were demonstrating at the major US international airports on Saturday evening and on Sunday, and they organized lawyers to meet with those detained at the airports to help them avoid deportation.

The Reform rabbis of Canada are at the forefront of a group of Concerned Canadian Clergy for Refugees who have signed a letter asking Prime Minister Trudeau to accept those who were being turned away under the US travel and immigration ban. We are hopeful that Trudeau will respond in the same way he responded on twitter to news of the ban: “to those fleeing persecution, terror and war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength.”

And our Solel refugee resettlement group is actively working towards welcoming a Syrian refugee family, whom we expect to arrive this summer. We have connected with several US congregations whom we are partnering with in this effort. Now, given the current political climate, we are hearing from other Reform congregations who had sponsored refugee families but whose arrival status to the US is now uncertain.

On Friday, February 24th we are looking forward to our annual “Invite Your Neighbour” service, where we will welcome our friends and neighbours to Solel to rejoice in our multi-faith community and to share our traditions in celebrating Shabbat. Now more than ever, we need to reach out and connect with our neighbours, and to convey the blessing of peace and hope that Shabbat brings to us each week. I hope that you will join us for this special service, and make some new friends.

And, I know that so many of us are in many ways doing the sacred work of fixing the brokenness in our world. Here is a blessing that you can sing/say when you do an act of tikkun olam (many of our Bet Sefer students and Camp George campers already know it):

L'takein et ha-olam
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam, Shenatan lanu hizdamnut l’takein et ha-olam.

(Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has given us the opportunity to mend the world.)

Reform Jewish musician Dan Nichols has set this blessing to music. You can listen to it on YouTube.

Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack

Filed under: Rabbi's Message

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