Rabbi Sessler D’var Torah

Two Kinds of Evil

We are celebrating Chanukah this week, because 23 centuries ago, our ancestors fought a decisive war for religious freedom, and for the perpetuation of Judaism. The Syrian-Greeks, led by Antiochus, forbade the practice of Judaism under penalty of death. Theirs was a theologically decadent, and politically barbaric, mode of religiosity. The Syrian-Greeks could not contain religious pluralism and diversity. It was their way, or death by the sword. And here we are, in California, 23 centuries thereafter, confronting as Jews, with the rest of the civilized world, a not completely dissimilar approach to religious diversity spearheaded by ISIS. Yet again, it’s their way or the sword. Their way, or senseless beheadings and barbaric slaughtering of anyone who is not them. And just like we emerged triumphant 23 centuries ago, in the struggle against the forces of darkness and barbarism, so too, we will emerge victorious this century as well, BH. End of first Shabbat article.

Second Shabbat article: Donald Trump is running for president. Here’s Donald Trump on Hispanic immigrants in general, and Mexicans in particular: “They’re brining drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists”. This is a direct quote. Verbatim. Here is Trump on Jeb Bush: “Jeb Bush has to love Mexicans, because of his wife”. Trump also expressed his personal concern about “violent crimes committed by blacks and Hispanics”. And a few days ago, Trump called for a ban of all Muslims to enter this country, at least for the time being. The world’s largest Jewish organization for fighting antisemitism, the Anti-Defamation League, denounced Trump’s words as unacceptable and anti-American. Virtually every other Jewish-American organization did the same. All republican presidential candidates condemned Trump’s words, and virtually every self-respecting republican leader did the same, including former vice president Dick Cheney. Following Trump’s words, the Prime Minister of Israel also expressed his dismay, as did the President of Israel. On the other hand, David Duke – the leading Neo-Nazi “intellectual” in this country expressed his support and enthusiasm this week, for Trump’s statements.

Trump’s words were also hailed on the website of Stormfront, the leading website of white supremacists and Nazi-Americans in America. So whose side are you on, on this one? The side of the neo-Nazis and White Supremacists in this country who enthusiastically support Trump’s recent statements, or the side of Dick Cheney, Benjamin Netanyahu and Jeb Bush? Don’t kid yourself. Trump isn’t crazy about many groups of people who are not Caucasian. This includes Hispanics, blacks, and some other groups of people who do not share his skin color and faith. When you approve of Trump in this specific context, you share that with David Duke and White Supremacists and Neo Nazis in America. When you condemn him, you share that with all other republican presidential candidates, with all Jewish-American organizations including the ADL, and with the Prime Minister of Israel who diplomatically worked very hard behind the scenes this week, in order to quietly and elegantly get Trump to “postpone” his trip to Israel, and save him (Netanyahu) the embarrassment. Don’t be an embarrassment to Jewish values and American values. Don’t support this man. Yesterday it was the “raping issue” with Hispanics, and the “violent crimes” perpetrated by African-Americans, today it’s every Muslim, and tomorrow it’s you and me – non-whites from the Middle East. This article will not be liked by everyone. But I need to answer to a higher authority. I work for G-d, and I have a religious and moral obligation of conscience as a rabbi. I respect and love my community enough to speak the truth as it stand from a Jewish perspective, and do what the prophets of Israel have been doing for millennia: speak morality and truth to power. Even when I know that some people may not like it. It’s called leadership.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Tal Sessler

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