Rabbi Rayzel Raphael Rocks in Shabbat with Psalm 95
Enjoy and Shabbat Shalom
The Fourth Estate is not Mar-a-Lago, it is time for both sides to get back to work.
The Free Press has a sacred place in the American system of government. The Founders knew the sacred responsibility they entrusted to the Press to use their powers as a supreme check and balance to the power of each branch of Government. The First Amendment of our Bill of Rights guarantees that this voice is exercised to preserve, protect and defend our country from the corruption that power can bring. Whether the Press fulfills this responsibility, or that the work is appreciated is the open question.
The Press has not always lived up to its sacred obligation. History is replete with examples of the Press being used to support a particular opinion or even worse, smear something with which it does not agree. The phrase “Yellow Journalism” comes from the type of press with little or no legitimate research, with sensational headlines driven by the desire to sell newspapers. It dates back to 1895. The issues of fake news or headlines without legitimacy are not new and have been the nemesis of higher quality journalism has fought for a long time. It is also the scourge of government, undermining anything with which is does not agree, slinging mud and being dishonest by misinforming the public.
Journalism, the kind with higher purpose as envisioned by the Founders, has its legitimate mission to gather and report the facts as a means of checking government power. It is not the friend of government rather it often plays an adversarial role. That, however, is not grounds for government officials to cast aspersions on all the press. It is to be put those officials on notice that the people are watching and you officials are ultimately responsible to us. The recent hard work of the press corps in the matter of Michael Flynn should be viewed as an important step in protecting “We the People.”
Government of, by, and for the people is the extraordinary sacred mission our officials are tasked to do. Ensuring and preserving that is the sacred mission the Free Press. It is time for everyone to do his or her respective jobs.
The third wave of terror threats against JCCs has swept across our country to begin this week. This on the heels is the actual act of terror: setting a Mosque on fire. These are not idle pranks. These are coordinated attacks designed to create havoc and fear in the Jewish and Muslim Communities. This is Terrorism.
As scary as these terror attacks are, so is the lack of response by the President. Why hasn’t he spoken out against domestic terrorism and on behalf of the FBI and the Justice Department supporting a full-scale investigation? Why hasn’t the White House publicly condemned these criminal acts of hate? Silence is the tacit acceptance that hatred of Jews and Muslims is sanctioned. A nation dedicated to freedom of religion must act to protect the exercise of that freedom when it is threatened. The First Amendment is more than fancy words written on fancy paper in fancy script. It is the eloquent aspiration of a nation striving to a beacon to the world; it is the bedrock principle upon which that nation is built. If it is anything less, then it is not worth the paper it is written upon.
President Trump, I call upon you to publicly condemn these acts and actively voice support law enforcement’s efforts to find the perpetrators of these odious acts and bring them to justice.
We people of faith stand together, united in our American voice that ensures each of us can speak in our own particular way. This solidarity is beautifully represented by Temple B’nai Israel giving its keys to the Victoria Islamic Center’s founders so that the Mosque’s people of faith have a home until they can rebuild and a public funding page dedicated to raising money to ensure that happens.
Yesterday’s reading of the Daf Yomi (daily page of Talmud), was remarkably timely in its discussion about destroying and replacing things. Rav Hisda taught that a Beit Knesset, synagogue, cannot be destroyed until a new one is ready to replace it. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) seems to be the modern day equivalent of this conversation.
The Gemara explains that just ripping down what exists opens the real possibility that irresponsible people will never follow through with the replacement, and the people will be left without a place for prayer. As we watch the government begin steps to dismantle “ObamaCare” through Executive Order and Congressional actions, we must ask, what is there to replace it?
What does Healthcare for our people look like? What is our responsibility to our fellow Americans? This is an important conversation for our nation. Regardless of the flaws both real and perceived in the existing structure, it is grossly irresponsible to destroy the ACA without a clear plan to replace it seamlessly with something clearly articulated before we take a sledgehammer to what we have.
As long as our government is of, by and for the people, there is no king with the authority to decree what shall be. Our elected representatives must be accountable for building not destroying.
This essay is based on the insights of Rabbi Steinsaltz as published in the English version of the Koren Talmud Bavli with Commentary by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz and edited and adapted by Rabbi Shalom Berger.
I was thrilled to see the level of engagement around the country this past Saturday. The civil rights that so many have fought so hard to achieve are precious and will neither be surrendered or taken away. But preserving, protecting, and expanding our civil rights requires vigilance and hard work that started the day after the protest marches and needs to continue as a daily commitment against those who would threaten these precious rights.
Our Rights should be self-evident but we cannot treat them like an entitlement. For many, our Rights were achieved only after hard work and even bloodshed, and they remain vulnerable. Marching is the beginning of organizing and speaking out is the beginning of developing a political voice. Although the administration is in place for the next four years, the Congress is up in two. The politicians must know that we will support only those who safeguard and champion the rights we hold so dear.
The morning after is when the hard work begins. So after the Women’s March, we must take the next steps. Find your place to make your actions count. 10 Actions in 100 Days is a place to join those already organized to continue the work. Together we can make a difference, preserving and protecting the Rights we hold dear.