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Stand Out -- CHRONICLE Online/The WORD 06/13/24

Weekly On-line Rabbi's D'var-Torah


June 13, 2024

7 Sivan 5784

Parashat Nasso

This past Monday a group of anti-Israel protesters got on a subway car in New York City and demanded that all Zionists raise their hands so that they could be kicked out of the car. When no one raised their hands, the leader of this group said, “Okay. No Zionists here. We’re good.”  (Click here for more details.) 

Needless to say, this was a disturbing incident. It is yet another example of the rise in antisemitism across the country. There have been others in just the last few days.

In the face of antisemitism, it is tempting to try hiding our Judaism in public. It feels safer not to stand out or be different. No one should put themselves at risk of harm.

However, the flip side is—if we allow antisemites to force us to hide our Judaism, then they’ve won.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about an odd practice called the “Nazirite Vow.” The basic idea is that a person could take a vow for any length time during which they will not cut their hair or ingest anything derived from a grape (including wine). Neither of these practices is required by the Torah. A person must choose to take them on.

The best known Nazirite in the Bible was, of course, Samson. We read about his birth in this week’s Haftarah (see Judges 13). As a result of living his entire life under the terms of the Nazirite vow that his mother took before his birth, Samson had superhuman strength. By choosing to stand out, Samson became stronger.  

I am not suggesting that any individual should try to stand up to an unruly mob on a subway car. However, we can find other ways to stand out proudly as Jews.  

I know that I recently started wearing a Jewish star necklace for the first time since I was a child. Others are wearing the yellow ribbon in solidarity with the hostages in Gaza. I see people wearing t-shirts and sweatshirts with Hebrew writing or the name of Jewish organizations. We can all write letters to media outlets and politicians identifying ourselves as Jews and expressing our dismay at the continued rise in antisemitism. We can also seek out safe spaces in which we can vent with other Jews. Needless to say, the synagogue is one of them (hint, hint)!

Hopefully, by showing these antisemites that they can’t force us into hiding and by calling out their antisemitism to the media and to law enforcement, we will help usher in a new era when we no longer have to deal with antisemitism.

Of course, our Torah portion gives us words of strength and encouragement to help us—the Priestly Benediction: “May God bless you and guard over you. May God show you favor and smile upon you. May God show you kindness and bless with you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).”



PS - If you are interested in seeing the slides from my presentation on Shavuot, click here

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