Monthly Archives: February 2018

Have a good day! (and please come home alive)

 

How many parents send their children off to school with this blessing?

The level of violence in our society is incomprehensible. It happens on so many levels but the most blatant manifestation is the tens of thousands of people who are murdered with guns. Seventeen children and teachers are the most recent victims, murdered in their school.

There is no single solution to the problem, but that cannot keep us from working hard to reduce violence and death. Mental Health issues may be at the heart of much of this, but there is an entire category called crimes of passion wherein people resort to guns when the rage is uncontrolled. But the mass murders of innocents such as children and teachers in school can only happen in a society that is content with permitting it. We cannot be complicit any longer.

We are responsible. We do not invest in adequate security for our schools, we do not invest in mental health professionals to help troubled people, we do not invest in systems to keep lethal weapons restricted, we do not ban weapons of mass destruction such as assault rifles.

We can blame feckless and craven Congressmen and State House representatives for inaction, but the ultimate responsibility is ours. If we do not demand action and accountability, these elected representatives devolve into pawns and lackeys. They will neglect the duties of their offices and work only to retain their offices by kowtowing to those with a particular political agenda and money to promote it.

Today we are reeling yet again at the tragedy in a Florida High School. But when we are finished burying the dead, we must galvanize the people to demand thoughtful action to address our horrific problem. There are important organizations advocating ways to reduce gun violence. Join them in their life-saving work.

 

 

Jethro, Ideal Father-in-Law and a man for our times

Jan_van_Bronchorst_-_Jethro_advising_Moses

Last week we read Parshat Yitro. It is filled with extraordinary things particularly the story of the title character Yitro and his interaction with Moses and the Children of Israel.

Yitro joins up with the people of the Exodus in support of their leader, his son-in-law Moses, if not in support of their journey to the Promised Land. I am taken by Jethro’s selflessness and righteousness.   For Jethro isn’t just any father-in-law, he is a priest of the Midianites. Arguably, his allegiance should be with his people, but Jethro never misunderstands that to mean he should undermine Moses.

It would be easy for Jethro to take advantage of the turmoil in B’nei Israel and steer them towards Midian, immigrants likely ready to offer their experience as slave labor in exchange for food, shelter, and security. Instead, he helps Moses organize a system that brings justice and order to the chaos, strengthening the fledgling institutions under Moses. Jethro remains in the background and not proselytizing, although he was likely a far better communicator than Moses. Finally, once Jethro shared all that he could teach Moses, he departed so that the leadership of Moses would not be challenged if people saw the power behind the power.

Jethro did not abuse his power. Indeed, he deftly manipulated his power into support of Moses. As a Midianite Priest, his worldviews and religion were different from the Children of Israel. However, he was respectful of the “other” and helped them flourish on their particular journey.

We can be different. My beliefs do not require a negation of your beliefs. We can co-exist, cooperate and even consider ourselves connected as part of a larger family. Not only a model father-in-law, Jethro is the model leader for civil pluralistic society for today as well.