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Rabbi Tarfon Taught...

10/14/2021 08:45:02 AM


In the second century CE, our Rabbinic Sage, Rabbi Chanina, taught:  “Pray for the welfare of the government, for were it not for the fear it inspires, every [person] would swallow his neighbor alive.”[1]About 1400 years later, the English  philosopher Thomas Hobbes would similarly warn:  “Except they be restrained through fear of some coercive power, every [person] will dread and distrust each other.”[2]

We Jews have endured--sometimes thrived under but from the vantage point of history, mostly endured--the governments under which we have lived.  When asked if there were even a blessing for the Czar, the saintly rabbi of Fiddler on the Roof would teach, “Yes, of course,  there is a blessing for everything in this world…May the Lord bless and keep the Czar far, far away from us!” 

And yet, many other Rabbinic sages called out to us,  individually and collectively, to take up the mantle of tikkun olam, repairing the world.  Noteworthy among them was Rabbi Tarfon who taught, “It is not upon you to complete the task but neither are you free to desist from it.”[3]

There are moments when we can and must recognize public leaders channeling the wisest teachings of our ancient sages. This is one of them.  In a few short weeks, we at CSK will have the great privilege of welcoming into our community the chief executive officer of Harris County, Judge Lina Hidalgo.  Elected by the voters of Harris County in 2018 at the age of 27, Judge Hidalgo  has championed and secured greater and fairer access to the polls and advocated for the rights of business owners and customers alike to keep our public spaces as safe as possible from COVID-19.  She speaks truth to power, advocating for ordinary constituents whose voice is so often unheard by the powers that be. Judge Hidalgo is a Latinx woman whose office has fundamentally and forever changed the age, gender and race of the kind of person most had always imagined would occupy that seat.  

On Friday night, November 5, we will welcome Judge Hidalgo as we celebrate Shabbat in the sanctuary at First UU (5200 Fannin St).  It will be a very special evening.  Our outdoor oneg will be sponsored by the family of our Bar Mitzvah that weekend, Nathan Segal; our music will be most beautifully led by Cantor Sara Hass (CSK’s first cantor and my sister); and we will get to hear from Judge Hidalgo, followed by the bestowal upon her of CSK’s first “Rabbi Tarfon Award.”  We are proud to welcome our community to worship together in mindful recognition that tikkun olam, repair of our world, is always at hand. 


[1] Pirke Avot, 3:2 @200 CE

[2] De Civi, 1651

[3] Pirke Avot, 2:16


Wed, August 17 2022 20 Av 5782