One of the most enriching aspects of Torah study is that each time I look at the weekly parasha; I see it with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.
In this week’s sedra, Parashat Shemot, there is a particular verb that seems to weave the portion together: to look or see.
Pharaoh orders the midwives to look at the sex of the newborn baby.
Moshe’s mother sees the beauty of her baby boy.
Pharaoh’s daughter sees a basket in the reeds and sees that is a crying baby.
A grown-up Moshe sees the suffering of the Hebrews and sees an Egyptian taskmaster beating a Hebrew slave.
God hears the moaning of the Hebrews and sees them.
Moshe sees a burning bush and then turns aside to look at this marvel.
God sees Moshe’s readiness and calls to him from the bush.
At that moment, Moshe, overwhelmed by the awe of the moment, hides his face because he is afraid to look at God.
Moshe doubts that the people will believe that he actually saw God.
Moshe then performs wondrous signs in the sight of the people and the people believe that God has seen their suffering.
Thus, all manner of seeing: curiosity, compassion, readiness to receive the divine, and as well as the fear of seeing or inability to see permeate this parasha.
Last week, the director of the NJ region of the ADL was transferred to NY, leaving no director here in NJ; nor are there plans to replace him. The office will be kept open in NJ, but without a director, and only an assurance that attention will be given to the NJ region from the NY office.
In response, my question is, “don’t they see what is going on here in NJ?
In just a matter of a few weeks there have been four attacks on synagogues in Bergen County. Of course, each is being investigated by the police as a hate-crime, and, in addition, the one this week in Rutherford as attempted murder.
And, the NJ office of the ADL was notified of the anti-Semitic rhetoric spewed from the mouth of a 12-year old student at FMG Middle School, here, in Springfield, at a public town-hall meeting with Gov. Christie, and with the aid and support of the child’s father. And, in response to the NJJN’s article on this incident, the child’s father unleashed additional anti-Semitic venom on the blog site of the on-line edition of the NJJN in which I was slandered by this child’s father.
Do you see a pattern here? Are we seeing an increase in anti-Semitism, which had thought to be on the decline? Have we not seen such patterns in the past?
Do we have the vision to foresee some resolution to this recent rise in anti-Semitism?
Well, here’s how I see it:
• I look forward to the capture of the perpetrator or perpetrators of the attacks we have seen take place in Bergen County. And, we know that they will be treated under the law as hate crimes, which incurs additional penalties. But, what I look to see are laws that impose even stronger, mandatory sentences for such crimes.
• I also want to see laws that, although libertarians will see as an attack on our Freedom of Speech, laws that will impose sentences as a hate-crime for those who spew forth anti-Semitic rhetoric in the public arena! Such laws already exist in Germany!
• And, as ridiculous as it may sound or impossible to implement, I would like to see every expectant parent be required to read the following lyrics from the musical, South Pacific:
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!
Is such a vision too much to seek?
Kain Y`hee Ratzon – May it be God’s will!