“Are You Standing or Just Standing By”

As we near the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, our ancestors are standing on the edge of the Promised Land. After 40 years of wandering, suffering and instructions from God and Moses, they are ready to take the plunge. But with that step into the land “flowing with milk and honey” comes great responsibility.

 You are standing this day,all of you before Adonai your God, your heads, your tribes, your elders andyour officers, indeed, even all the people of Israel (Deut. 29:9).

 3500 years ago our people were committing themselves to the covenant established with their parents and grandparents at Sinai. For us this is a teaching “to stand up before God.” Whenever the need arises to take action in behalf of a cause, to wage the good fight, we are called to “stand up” for those who are unable or unwilling to stand up for what is right. Of course, our response is often, “Why choose me, of all people? Leave it to the rabbis, the leaders of the community…. What can an ordinary person like myself do?

 Tonight, like every Friday night, we will offer our prayers for peace and for God to eliminate enmity from our midst. Does it happen by magic? Does it happen because we wish or pray for it? Tonight, we should cherish the meditation in our prayerbook written by Nachman of Bratzlav. “Pray, as if everything depends on God. Act, as if everything depends on me.”

We are called upon to arise before Adonai your God. We are called, all of us to stand, ready for action from the heads of our tribes down to the hewer of wood and the drawer of water (Deuteronomy 29:10. This is a call to unite and realize that redemption is not in the hands or the sole responsibility of our leaders.

We watch the new and we are disillusioned or angry. Dissolusioned that our leaders have not found a peaceful solution in Ukraine, in Iraq. Angry that innocent lives – Americans and others – have been lost to negligence or just violence. We applaud the military solution to Ebola in Africa, and wonder when the fighting will stop in Gaza and Israel.

Children are fleeing violence and death from Central America. The Climate change, the unemployment rate, the economy seem to confuse us, and yet many remain seated.

You are standing here this day…before God – You can make a difference by yourself or together with others, taking the higher moral instruction given 3500 years ago. Threats, obstructions need not deter you from bringing serenity and peace, perhaps not on a global level; but in your own home and in your own community.

Take whatever good feelings, inspiration, moral direction you have that informs your life into your own transactions in the world and stand up and bring some of that goodwill into a world that needs you.

Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim
Congregation Or Chadash