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The Torah of Brokenness

06/01/2020 08:30:56 AM


by Rabbi Joshua Lesser

As much as I love the spirit of learning and celebrating the receiving of Torah that Shavuot brings, today my heart weighs a bit on the heavier side.

Rather than imagine the tablets gleaming made of sapphire, gathered with the whole Jewish community ready to receive revelation, I can't refrain from thinking about the fate of these first set of commandments. Moses shatters them. 
I wish I were in a place to receive the wholeness of Torah, this Shavuot's Torah emerges out of the brokenness for me.
With the deaths of George Floyd and Ahmad Arbery, I see in the fragments, "Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof: Justice, justice You Shall Pursue.  And with the lethality of our broken justice system riddled with racism, supremacy, and abuse of power how far that pursuit is still. And I see reflected in this shard, the silence, and inaction of the pursuit altogether by too many good people.

With the news that we have surpassed 100,000 deaths to Covid-19 in the US (nearly 360,000 worldwide), I see etched in the shard, "And Aaron was silent". I feel rendered numb and stunned by those numbers and the cavalier way that people disregard the health of others. The suppression of best practices and access to data to make wise decisions is its own silence, too. 

Listening to the pain of the Jews of Color who continue to be diminished discounted and ridiculed is another fragmented piece of Torah in the shattering. I see written, "Take a census of the whole Israelite community..."  When will we treat each other as an "am segulah", each one of us precious, worthy and counted by our community? 

While these shards of Torah are just a few splinters of the teachings in the brokenness, I appreciate a tradition that espouses, "There is nothing as whole as a broken heart" Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk  And a tradition that teaches that in the Holy Ark, our ancestors places the whole tablets and the broken tablets together for both are sacred and dear. And without the other, they only tell a part of the Truth.

May we honor all that is whole and broken in our worlds and may we learn from the Torah that emerges from both, for there is only Oneness.

And though I am not with the community I love in person, I do have the collective memory that we stood together once around the Mountain in awe, with anticipation and dread, with much to celebrate and much to grieve awaiting the Torah in all her wholeness and brokeness.

Chag Sameach.

Tue, August 3 2021 25 Av 5781