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The Day After

A message from Rabbi Daniel Lichman


The election results are in. You might have some feelings about them. Fear, relief, disappointment, reassurance, anger, frustration - are some potential feeling-responses. We are a community with different political viewpoints - so I anticipate that all of these responses are in the mix.


My reflection on this Erev Shabbat morning after the election is relief that this period of big ‘P’ party politics is done. It is now time to turn with commitment to the hope which will arise out of the small ‘p’ politics in which we are engaged together - building a community able to respond to these times.


In the tractate of Sotah in the Babylonian Talmud (37b) a disagreement emerges about the nature of revelation in Torah. Rabbi Akiva v Rabbi Ishmael - the two great rabbis of their generation. Rabbi Akiva holds that at Sinai the ‘general principles’ and the ‘particular laws’ were both revealed; this revelation was then repeated without change in the Ohel Moed (tent of meeting). Contrastingly, Rabbi Ishmael agrees that the ‘general principles’ were given at Sinai but holds that the ‘particular laws’ were learnt in the Ohel Moed. The medieval commentator Rashi explains that the Ohel Moed is a yeshiva - place of discussion and learning.


As I reflect on this sugia (Talmudic passage) on this day-after-the-election I see how the Sinai moment represents the macro, the hegemonic, the transcendent, the power beyond us, the national; I see how the Ohel Moed represents the micro, the immanent, the power within us, the local. For Rabbi Akiva the national is replicated in the local: we heard the voice of Sinai, the conversation is now over. Contrastingly, Rabbi Ishmael suggests that at the local level something else is possible: a new conversation can begin that responds to Sinai. And the response is different because the conversation is different. In the Ohel Moed people face one another, listen to one another, learn from one another.


I invite you to respond to this election moment, by way of Rabbi Ishmael, in the Ohel Moed/tent of meeting which is our community. Our task is to address the age old human predicaments (‘general principles’) that the election tried, and mostly failed, to respond to: alienation, anger, inequality, loneliness, prejudice, fear. We will respond in our Ohel Moed, knowing that it will give us new ways (‘particular laws’) to understand Sinai - new ways that we do not yet know about but that we trust will emerge from our gatherings.


We are guided by our vision:


In this broken world of disconnection, fear and social and environmental injustices, we can feel fearful, apathetic and powerless. We respond by building this community to show that another world is possible. Anchored by Jewish tradition, rituals and each other, we are engaged in the practice of how to be more compassionate, loving and just human beings, who make an active contribution to the world we want to see.


Today I draw particular inspiration from our value of:


TZEDEK: Justice - Acting with justice and compassion, working towards the creation of a more loving world; acknowledging the connectedness of our fate with the fate of other communities, British society and the wider world


The election campaign revealed a deficit in minority groups coming together in solidarity. It is time for our community to respond by entering into relationships of solidarity with other communities.


Today I draw particular inspiration from our value of:


HINENI: 'Here I am' / Leadership - Believing that every one of us, Jewish or Allies, whatever our backgrounds, strengths and relationships with Judaism, has something of value to offer, and the power to make change.


The election campaign revealed a deficit of ethical leadership. In our community we are committed to training, practicing and developing our leadership skills. In the first instance - to build our community - and ultimately for us to learn how to impact far beyond.


Together with you, I have hope.


3 things you can do:-


1 Join us this evening for Erev Shabbat at Naomi's home for - an opportunity to reflect together on how we feel in response to the election result. (The details for this event were sent out in an email earlier today.)


2 Leadership is learnt and our society needs effective ethical leaders. If you would like to join our community organising leadership training course on 15 - 16 February email rabbidaniel@rjuk.org.


3. Communities showing up for one another is vital - explore what it would be like to be part of a broad-based community organisation by joining Martin (martin.dives@gmail.com) next Thursday 19 December 5 - 6pm at a London Citizens' action at City Hall. The action will assess how welcoming the London government is towards refugees and migrants. Please see the flyer for details below.



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Makor Hayim

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