October 30, 2020 Rabbi Robinson sermon

The world, The Baal Shem Tov once said, is full of people who in the guise of piety are ready to harm others.

How often we have seen those words come true, especially lately. Just a casual glance at the news shows again and again hurtful words and actions and their results. The level of anxiety in our country right now, with the election in its final days, and more people than ever coming down with—and dying from—Covid-19. As a colleague said to me this week: we may be done with the pandemic, but the pandemic is not done with us.

And there are many, many people especially anxious in the wake of Amy Comey Barrett’s confirmation and swearing in. LGBT individuals, voting rights advocates, people who depend on the ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and so many more, felt such a sense of hopelessness and sadness this week, as those who would minimize their humanity, who would deny the presence of God and the equal rights of all in those folks, got to take a victory lap, pretending toward piety.

This is not how it is supposed to be. We read this week God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah, who aren’t even Abraham and Sarai, they’re not patriarch and matriarch, just two people living in Haran named Avram and Sarai: “I will bless you, and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, and curse the one who curses you; and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.

We are meant to be a blessing, a light to the nations, as Isaiah writes. How can we bring light, that everlasting fire, as Tolstoy writes, if we are too busy engaging in curses? No, we must find the way to bring blessing again.

We must act with blessing in our hearts, not curses. We must be kind to those around us. This week especially, I could feel how people were growing frayed at the edges, much quicker to snap at one another, to let the stress get to them. We must remember that, no matter how stressed we may be, no matter how hurt, we do not know someone else’s burdens, and we must not add to them. We must vote, and encourage others to do so, even if we feel discouraged. We must, as Avram and Sarai did, walk forward, move forward, with hope, and take a radical leaving of the darkness of this moment. Hope as a radical act that challenges us to, despite the curses around us, bring blessing, and despite the darkness around us, bring forth light. And we will be tested in the days ahead, with darkness, with curses; with harsh words and hostile tones. Perhaps we have gotten used to it these last four years; perhaps we are still shocked. Regardless, it is now our task to stand against the speech, against the curses, at every opportunity, and fill that space with blessing, to be a balm to the anxious in our midst. We owe it to those around us and to ourselves to not stand idly by. It will take strength; we must find the same strength that Avram and Sarai found in one another. It will take love: may we find a way to love one another no matter what happens as we move forward, and lift each other up. May we, therefore, find strength, and hope, and love in one another, and teach others to do the same as we move forward. Then, may it truly be said, that we shall be a blessing. Amen.

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