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Are You Listening?

The time we are now living in calls to mind another time of national upheaval some three thousand years ago in the land of Israel. Upon entering the Promised Land, our ancestors were subjugated and oppressed by the brutal Philistines for forty years. Amidst their suffering, this week’s haftarah portion tells the birth of the mighty Samson and how he shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Why a first redeemer, and not a last, final harbinger of peace? Because when you look through the Bible, we found ourselves at war with the Philistines time and again. And from this cycle of oppression, our ancestors would cry out, yet again, for a new chapter of peace.

People of color and their allies are crying out again, urging our country to face its past and present biases. The list is long- discriminatory housing policies, underfunded education systems, a slanted justice system, and countless other ways that Americans have put their neighbors at a systemic disadvantage generation after generation.

At a time like this, religion asks us to go even deeper than policy solutions, as essential as they are toward addressing the injustices of today. Our tradition asks first, are you listening? Are we able to open ourselves up to the struggles and pain of people who are different from us, or are we going to, yet again, place others at a distance?

Are you listening? At a time like now, this is the only question that truly matters. Maybe this is the reason why the most central prayer in Jewish tradition is Sh’ma- Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad. Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.

God is One, God’s children are one, but most importantly, Hear, O Israel. Listen. Just listen. And if we’ve listened, deeply listened to those who have been silenced, I pray that when this is over, will not be yet another crisis in a long string of many, but the last.

We pray for redemption, a Promised Land, but God is saying to us, Sh’ma Yisrael, we have to listen first.

Please click here to view a Facebook video that was published to accompany this blog post.