Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe)

Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe)

by Mara

Summary: The Rosh Hashana sermon of Rabbi Jacob Bloom of Congregation Beth Tikva.

Story Notes:
At the end, you will find a glossary of any terms related to Judaism not already translated in the text. Also, I should note that The Rabbinical Assembly’s statement is almost a direct quote, but not quite. Gigantic thanks to
Mofic, Adn_heming, and Blue_Braces for betareading.

Congregation Beth Tikva, Rabbi Bloom, and his congregants are from my imagination. Other people mentioned are real, including Noah Golinkin, who would have loved that I included him.

CONTINUITY/SPOILERS: This takes place somewhere in the middle of X3, but has only mild spoilers.

* * * * *

Rosh Hashana sermon, 5769
Rabbi Jacob Bloom, Congregation Beth Tikva, Rockville, MD

L’shana tova tikatevu v’tehatemu. It’s good to see all of you here on this rainy
Rosh Hashana, in our renovated sanctuary. Thanks to Simon Katz for doing such a
nice job with Shacharit this morning, yasher koach, Simon. And I want to remind
everyone that Judy Dettmiller will be giving a talk before Mincha at 2:30 in the
library on “Women and the Minyan: A Conservative Perspective.” I think Judy will
be doing question and answer afterward, right? She’s nodding, so that’s yes.

I know all of you are eager to finish the service, so why don’t I get started?
Let me begin with a story from the Talmud.

In the first century, there were two great rabbis, Hillel and Shammai. One day,
a skeptic came to Shammai and said to him, “Teach me the whole Torah while I
stand on one foot.” This made Shammai mad, because he felt he was being mocked,
and he chased the man away.

The man went to see Hillel, and asked *him* to teach him the entire Torah while
standing on one foot. Hillel replied, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your
neighbor: that is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary; go and learn it.”

What does that have to do with Rosh Hashana? Well, I’ll get there. Just give me
a little time.

Rosh Hashana is a holy day that wears many hats: the Day of Judgement, the Day
of Shofar Blowing, the Day of Remembrance, and, of course, the New Year.

Many people use this holiday to make resolutions for the coming year, and I
would like to propose something to be added to that list, along with “lose
weight” and “spend more time with the kids.”

I bet you think I’m going to say, “give more money to the shul.” No, I leave
that to the president! Maybe you think I’m going to say you should come to
services more often. Okay, that would be nice too.

But on this Day of Judgement, the beginning of the Days of Awe, in this time
when we practice teshuva (repentance), tefilah (prayer), and tzedakah (charity),
I would like to ask you to resolve to fight for equal rights for mutants. Spend
these Days of Awe asking yourself what *you* can do.

I agonized for a long time over whether to write this sermon. The Committee on
Jewish Law and Standards has not issued any responsa related to the status of
mutants in Jewish law. However, until such time as the Conservative movement has
a definitive position, it is my responsibility to provide guidance to this
congregation based on my understanding of halakha.

I searched my heart and the Torah, and found it was time I spoke out.

While the committee has yet to rule, the Rabbinical Assembly *has* issued the
following statement:

“We, the Rabbinical Assembly,
1) Support full civil equality for mutants in our national life, and
2) Deplore the violence against mutants in our society, and
3) Reiterate that, as are all Jews, mutants are welcome as members in our
congregations, and
4) Call upon our synagogues and the arms of our movement to increase our
awareness, understanding and concern for our fellow Jews who are mutants.”

The Torah has nothing to say specifically about mutants, I know. But Leviticus
19:17 tells us “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart” and Leviticus
19:18 gives us the oft-quoted “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

It doesn’t say, “Love thy neighbor, unless his daughter has gills.” It doesn’t
say, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother, unless his skin is green.”

Our covenant with Hashem is based on our willingness to be a light to all
nations, to participate in tikkun olam, repairing the world through social
action.

In these Days of Awe, it is incumbent upon us as Jews to remember that Hashem
has, for whatever reason, allowed mutants to exist, and all of us are ‘b’tzelem
elohim,’ created in the image of the Divine.

This means that we all have that spark of divinity in us, and it is our job to
find it and nurture it in others and in ourselves. Our goal is no less than
perfection.

Jews have always stood at the forefront of civil rights movements. Rabbi Abraham
Joshua Heschel marched arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King. Locally, Rabbi Noah
Golinkin, who some of you know was a good friend of mine, fought for integration
of schools and housing in DC and Northern Virginia. The Southern Poverty Law
Center, which has spent decades fighting all forms of discrimination, has a
staff list that sounds like a shul board: co-founder Joseph J. Levin Jr., Howard
Mandell, Rhonda Brownstein, Mark Potok…

And I could go on.

If you’ve turned on a television or read a newspaper in recent days, you will
have heard of a “cure,” created by Worthington Industries, a cure that promises
to take away those pesky mutations, save us from having to see new aspects of
the Divine.

“It’s purely voluntary,” we’re told. “Nobody’s being forced to get the shot.
Nobody’s being forced to wear the yellow star or the pink triangle.”

Oh, pardon me. I must be mixing up my historical events. It’s true that nobody
is being forced to wear a yellow star to show they’re a mutant. But are we so
far from that?

A study of recent history shows that saying “Never again” is easy–keeping that
promise is hard. Again and again, we have cried out against oppression in other
nations: the Sudan, Yugoslavia, South Africa, Russia. And millions have died.

Will mutants have to be decimated before we acknowledge their cries? Yes, there
are mutants who want to receive this cure and we must respect their wishes, but
we must be sure that *we* as a society have not pressured them into this. We
must be sure that this cure is never forced upon the innocent, the unwilling
victim of our own fears.

Throughout our history, many Jews have died rather than convert. They have
embraced martyrdom rather than renounce who they are. Let us not force this same
choice on mutants.

If you recall, I began this sermon with the story of the man who demanded to
learn Torah while standing on one foot. The great Rabbi Hillel told him “What is
hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah. The rest is
commentary; go and learn it.”

Twenty centuries later, have we truly learned Torah? Or are we as ignorant as
that skeptic?

–end–

Chapter End Notes:
Glossary:
Rosh Hashana: One of the High Holy Days, the beginning of the Days of
Awe. (Although it lasts two days by the secular calendar, Rosh Hashana is
considered one long 48-hour day.)
L’shana tova tikatevu v’tehatemu: “May you be inscribed and sealed for a
good year,” referring to the idea that during the Days of Awe, God decides
everyone’s fate for the coming year.
Shacharit: Morning prayers
Yasher koach: Well done
Mincha: The afternoon service.
Minyan: A quorum of ten Jewish adults (or ten men, depending on the
branch of Judaism) whose presence is required for certain parts of the service.
Talmud: A record of rabbinic discussions of Jewish law, ethics, customs,
and stories, which carry nearly the force of law.
Torah: The first five books of the Bible.
Shofar: A ram’s horn, used for ceremonial purposes on the High Holidays.
Shul: The Yiddish word for synagogue.
Committee on Jewish Law and Standards: This is a committee of the
Rabbinical Assembly that sets policy for RA rabbis and for the Conservative
movement.
Rabbinical Assembly: The international association of Conservative
rabbis.
Responsa: Written decisions or rulings of a rabbinical body of authority.
Halakha: The collective body of Jewish law, which covers both religious
and everyday life.
Hashem: God
Tikkun olam: Repairing the world (through social action)

I borrowed ideas and occasionally short phrases from:
Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan, Main Line Reform Temple, Narberth, PA
Jill Jacobs, rabbinical student, Jewish Theological Seminary
Rabbi Lewis John Eron, Jewish Family and Children’s Service, Cherry Hill, NJ
Rabbi David Golinkin, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem
Rabbi David Thomas, Beth El, Sudbury, MA
The Rabbinical Assembly of Conservative Judaism
Judaism 101 at http://www.jewfaq.org

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