Re'eh - 5778
As the parent of two young boys, I would very much like to be able to embrace the world view painted by the opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Re’eh. The portion begins by asserting, essentially: Make good choices in life, act well and you’ll be treated kindly. Life will be good. But that message rings especially hollow this year on the first anniversary of the Charlottesville demonstrations.
One year ago a confrontation between a group of armed fascist agitators and (largely) non-violent counter-protestors, singing songs of peace and convening interfaith prayer vigils erupted into an uncontained melee that resulted in the death of (thankfully only) one of the counter-protestors and the intimidation of a huge swath of America’s religious, racial and ethnic minority communities who were made to believe that it was possible in this country for a company of bigots and bullies to spew their message of hate openly on America’s streets, protected by those very liberties that are this country’s pride and glory.
Reflecting on those events – not to mention the response to them by this nation’s most senior leader – it is hard not turn one’s gaze with greater understanding and respect to the latter portion of Re’eh’s message, the portion often overlooked or apologetically pushed aside by those of a more liberal persuasion: The “good life” the Torah asserts, consists not only of trying to do right by others, dealing with them with compassion and generosity. It consists, too, where circumstances warrant it, in standing up to the forces of evil and dispelling them. Making a stand for our values that is just as uncompromising as that of those who would assail them.
Perhaps “being good” at times entails and more complex, less pristine set of options than we might have desired. Now try communicating that to your children …