Three weeks ago my congregation, my community learned a hard truth that we had known in our minds, but not experienced in our hearts. That violence does not affect other people and other families, but something that touches us all. Three weeks ago, a young man, Seth Rich, 27 years old, was shot dead in the prime of his life on the streets of Washington, DC. Three weeks ago my congregation lost one of its children.
Seth, grew up here in Omaha, attending Central High and Creighton. He moved to DC to follow his dreams, working on the front lines of our democracy at the DNC. Seth believed that everyone in our country, no matter their economics, religion or the color of their skin had the right to vote. Seth wanted to make a difference in the world around him and we honor his memory not with our tears, but with our vote.
Yet if Seth could speak to us today, he would undoubtedly tell us that our response to violence must be colorblind, that our response to hate must be love, our response to bigotry must be diversity.
A story found in Jewish tradition told about how a man in a boat began to drill a hole under his seat. His fellow passengers protested. “What concern is it of yours?’ the man responded, ‘I am making a hole under my seat, not yours.’ The other passengers replied, ‘This is so, but when the water enters and the boat sinks, we too will drown,’ [Leviticus Rabbah 4:6]
The pain and suffering that we see on the news and in our neighborhoods, is not someone else’s problem, but our very own. Every time our country has sought to find the courage to overcome adversity we have done so together; not as black or white, rich or poor, Christian or Jew; but as one nation under God indivisible with justice for all.
I stand before you today as a son, a husband, a rabbi, but most importantly a father. I am here because of my children and the country I hope they inherit. A country that does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. A country where no child goes to bed hungry. A country where a hard day’s work is paid a fair and equitable wage. A country where every child receives a first rate education. A country where parents do not have to worry about the safely of their children at school.
We are here today because we want to leave our children a more perfect union than how we found it.
There is a beautiful story told by Rabbi Meir that God wanted proof that the Jewish people would cherish his most precious possession, the Torah, The 5 Books of Moses. God asked the Israelites for guarantors that the tradition would be upheld. The people responded, “Our ancestors will be our guarantors”. God responded saying “they are not sufficient”, so God asked again and the Jewish people responded saying, “our prophets will be our guarantors”. Once more God said “I have found fault with your prophets. Who shall be your guarantors? The Israelites, newly freed from bondage, looked toward heaven and said, “if you give us your most prized possession, your Torah, we will offer you our most prized possession, our children will be our guarantors”. With that God responded by saying “since you have offered me your children, I will give you My Torah”
The Torah teaches us that our children are our greatest legacy. They will carry on the values we teach them.
We will be judged by the world we leave our children. We should choose leaders who care about our families, our children and our grandchildren as much as they care about their own; and that is why “I am with her”.
My daughter last Tuesday night asked me who that man was on TV, I told her Bill Clinton. She responded, “isn’t he married to the president?”
Keyn yehi ratzon – May It Be Gods Will.
יְבָרֶכְךָ י, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May God bless us and guard us
יָאֵר י פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
May God shine his face upon us and be gracious to us
יִשָּׂא י פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
May God lift up His face upon us and grant us peace
And let us say Amen