This week Jews the world over read the following verses from the Book of Exodus, (Chapter 23):
1 You are not to take up an empty rumor. Do not place your hand with a guilty person, to become a witness for wrongdoing.
2 You are not to go after the many to do evil…
The news for Jews this week seems to be all about the effect of “empty rumors” getting turned into destructive actions. From the bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers across the country, including our own here in Buffalo, to the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, it has been a rough week for American Jewry.
Words matter. When we speak we create and we destroy. When we don’t speak, or allow others to speak for us, we allow creation and destruction to take place around us.
The forces unleashed in the last year – many of them rallied around the election of President Trump – are terrifying.
This week, at long last, President Trump spoke out against Anti-Semitism. I am grateful that he has seen his way to understand that something is going on that requires his attention. He must do more, and we must continue to be vigilant.
We must speak out against empty rumors, and live our lives in ways that show people who we truly are, the standards of integrity and citizenship we uphold, and the kind of neighbors that we are and aim to be. Muslims in St. Louis raised money for the vandalized cemetery. Jews in Texas handed the keys of their synagogue over to the Muslim community whose mosque burned down last month.
We know how to do this, how to live by an “all in it together” philosophy.
We must hold fast to the principles of our ancient teachings that we renew every day in our personal and communal conduct. “If not now when,” as our teacher Hillel said, is always now.