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This Is It 

03/03/2022 09:20:41 AM


Rabbi Scott Hausman -Weiss

A friend of mine once related this story to me. He really loved his therapist and he talked about therapy all the time. How much he was learning and how much he really appreciated the recommendation he had been given to start going to therapy. He told me following his most recent session, that he was feeling so very grateful to the therapist for how she has helped him so much over the course of the preceding year when he thought to himself, “You know, I don’t ever ask my therapist about her.”  At his next appointment, before she began to speak, he said to her, “How are things with you? What's going on in your life?” She proceeded to share a little bit, at which point he then said, “Okay  enough about you, let’s talk about me.”

Enough about the world, let’s talk about us. And by us, I mean we Jews.  (And in this scenario, you’re the therapist!)

First off, how truly remarkable it is that the president of Ukraine, who now has made famous the words, “I don’t need a ride. I need ammunition!”… who spoke to the European Union by video call in a T-shirt and jeans and shared with them that this may be the last moment they ever see him… whose leadership is probably the single most important reason why the world has lined up behind this country the size of New York…whose government is wrongly and falsely accused by Putin of being filled with Nazis…and who may be significantly responsible for re-ordering the post WWII order…is Jewish!  President Volodymyr Zelensky’s family members were killed in Ukraine during the Shoah, and Putin targeted Babi Yar…in Ukraine.  

Second, Irony? Or hypocrisy?  A teacher of mine and a very well renowned writer and thought leader, Rabbi Daniel Gordis, posted this on Facebook: 

We shouldn’t make this all about us, but for a moment, I am. Isn’t it interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a rush of protests online or on campus against Russia? I’m just curious why   there isn’t an eruption of student and faculty groups calling for the interruption or cancellation of their programs and relationships with Russia and its counterparts.  I wonder why…It’s not as if there isn’t a bold effort being made by Russia to attack Jewish sites (among many others) to terrorizing thousands of Jews (and so very many others) in the same place the real Nazis did decades ago.  Only this is from just the other day: 

A person holding a babyDescription automatically generated with low confidence

Third, I know that I am not alone in feeling tremendous ambivalence about what it is that I want and hope for from our president and national leadership. The notion that a country, not because of a depth of leadership, not because of grand wealth and success, not because of the ways in which it has built far reaching networks around the world, but only because it has the capacity to destroy the world hundreds of times over, can act as Russia is acting without being seriously challenged, is heartbreaking (not to suggest that it’d be okay under any other circumstances). I’m not naive. I understand realpolitik. But this isn’t just. It’s not right, in so many ways. This is the kind of moment when the US should be able to lead with power and might and shock and awe.  This is the moment for which the US has been training and arming and preparing soldiers, but we blew it time and again with our own wars that were not just, but  were too often our own violent efforts that served only the interests of the wealthy, sacrificing the bodies of young men and women on the altar of power. More than anything, I want the United States to step up and tell this bully, “Enough is enough!” But I’m not sure our credibility is there.  And I’m not talking about our exit from Afghanistan. I’m referring to our entrance there, our staying there, our doubling and tripling down. From Vietnam to the Falklands, from Nicaragua to Iraq…from the drug war to corporate sponsored opioid addiction, to crack cocaine sentencing – the list of the unjust arming of our democratically elected leaders engaging in unjust actions feel to me today to be the existential reason why we cannot act now. No one wants World War III. No one wants a nuclear winter.  But how can we as a people, as a country, not act?  Hillel’s words ring truer today than ever.  “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?”

I don’t know with this blog post, who I might be upsetting (I hope no one!) and who might be agreeing with me. I offer this as a forum for my deep concerns, the existential baggage I have been carrying around for at least a week. And like a good therapist, you get to listen. I know I am not alone amongst the heartbroken. There’s something very, very broken in our world today.  If anything that we have learned since the Holocaust matters, this is it.  When we have said, “Never again,” this is it. Every Veterans Day parade, every cross and Jewish star and sickle that have been hammered into the hallowed ground cradling the remains of those who served and died for the sake of freedom, this is it. 

I offer these words to you not as a treatise or a solid historical document, but more as a prayer.  I thought COVID was about the most difficult thing we would face these days.  I leave you today with these words from Rabbi Heschel.  “Pray as if it all depends on God.  Act as if it all depends on you.”  Whatever it is in your hands to effect today, try to do it.  Try to bring repair to the brokenness that is immediately before you.  For now, that has to be enough. 

Mon, February 26 2024 17 Adar I 5784