30 January 2017

Hevel, Hevel, haKol Hevel and I'm Not Sure What's New under the Sun

I have a tallit that my family made for me to wear when I planned to march with the NAACP's Journey for Justice in the summer of 2015.  I could not make that trip, due to illness, but I wore it one or two times at rallies since then and at at the opening of the Reform Movement's Nitzavim campaign in August.

Since last week, I've decided to keep it to hand in my car.

I had a congregant angry at me yesterday because I did not tell her in the morning that I would be speaking at an immigration support rally that afternoon.  That morning, I did not know.

Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of statewide clergy to talk about the sanctuary movement and how I could help to keep people from being deported.  I learned at that meeting that a man that I had helped to keep from deportation three years before was now being called in for an emergency meeting with ICE.  Two days later, my colleagues and friends were demonstrating at airports all over the country to let people with valid papers who had already arrived leave airport detention.  The next day, I marched with groups focussing on both issues - "No Ban, No Wall."

Many of the faces that I am seeing at these meetings and rallies are those of people I have met in local interfaith groups, testifying for marriage equality in New Jersey, organizing for reproductive rights, rallies against hate.  Are we preaching to the choir, or is it strengthening to standing with stalwart companions?

I am also seeing congregants, colleagues, college and high school classmates, former congregants, parents of my children's friends, old youth groupers.  Faces that are new in these places are a joy to behold.

On Facebook, there is live video feed from friends all over the country chanting and marching in separate places, together.

Today I had a phone call with an organizer I have worked with in the past and all that kept running through my head was that the old organizational math was no longer valid.  What used to add up now subtracts, and the rules of the political game seem to be quaint memories.

I do not know what to do - and I have spent a life time learning.

I do not know what is next - and each news item spins me in another direction.

Kohelet, the voice of the book of Ecclesiastes begins by saying, "Hevel, hevel, ha kol hevel" - the King James' Bible translates this as "Vanity, Vanity, All is Vanity!".  The new Jewish Publication Society as "Utter futitilty!"  Mist, unsubstantial mist - we are tilting at shadows, sparring with ghosts.

And yet, the book ends, in what I would argue, is a fourth-wall breaking wink, "The making of many books is without limit, and much study is wearying of the flesh."  We can only rail in our libraries for so long and then the time comes to put down the book and go out into the world.

You'll find me out in the cold.  I hope you join me there. We'll warm each other with the fire of righteousness.