Simple But Not Simplistic: Yitro and the Revelation of Kindness

The truth rarely is ever nice and neat, but it can be sudden. It is often messy, but can be straightforward. This is best captured in the synthesis of senses in this week’s Torah portion, Yitro. At Sinai they saw the sound of thunder (Exodus 20:15). At Sinai the sublime beauty of God was revealed with a blending of sensory experiences. Synesthesia communicates something complex in a way that is simple but not simplistic.

If I was a slave, what would it mean to be freed? What would it mean to find myself meeting the Creator? It must have just been overwhelming. This blending is understandable. But is that it?

I could only imagine the Israelites profound sense of gratitude. This and the synesthesia at revelation is echoed by Mark Twain who said, “Kindness is a language that the blind can see and the deaf can hear.” Kindness in its essence is simple, but rarely simplistic. By our nature were are driven toward looking out for ourselves. In many ways were are enslaved by self-interest. Altruism, the practice of concern for happiness of others, is clear as day and so hard to actualize.

Amidst all of the darkness, hatred, bigotry, and anti-Semitism in the world right now we could use a little flash of revelation even if it not so clear.

– Links to other posts on synesthesia

Protector of Israel: Painful Wake Up Call

This past weekend I found myself going back to my favorite earworm by the Shira Choir. I dare you to listen to Im HaShem LoYivneh Bayit without singing it all week.

The lyrics come from two verse in Psalms. There we read:

אם-השם, לא-יבנה בית–    שוא עמלו בוניו בו
אם-השם לא-ישמור-עיר,    שוא שקד שומר הנה לא-ינום, ולא יישן–    שומר, ישראל

If the Lord did not build the house, they labor in vain that they build it
If the Lord did not keep the city, the watchman are awake in vain (Psalm 127:1) Behold, God the protector of Israel does not rest or sleep  (Pslam 121:4)

Just when we thought that we might be turning a corner with Covid or enough time has passed since the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, we hear the news of the hostage situation in a synagogue in Texas. This happening in 2022 is unsettling. I am sure like many of you this weekend was one of sleeplessness.

We might claim that this ending without the hostages being physically injured is sign that the Protector not resting or sleeping. And at the same time we must ask ourselves why we are always in harms way. What about their mental wellbeing? Who is protecting our mental, emotional, spiritual, social health? I would prefer it if the Jewish people were not the snooze button on God’s alarm clock getting smacked every time God needed to wake up. Throughout history we have had more than our share of these painful wake up calls.

Police respond to a hostage situation at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on Jan. 16 in Colleyville, Texas.

It is hard in these moments not feeling exposed. All people need to feel safe in their bodies, identities, and homes. If we do not feel the presence of the Protector we need community and human connection to watch over us. Alas due to Covid, this has not been happening in fulfilling ways. Covid is not the only ailment. Hate is also a global pandemic. We need to acknowledge the events of the weekend and find other ways to connect, form community, and look after each other.

Almond Blossom: Tu B’Shvat And Wintering

Today is Tu B’Shvat, the New Year for the trees, signals the start of spring in Israel. This is supposed to coincide with the budding of the first almond blossoms. While our frosty lunar based solar mash-up calendar might not totally align to the coming of spring, it is interesting to note how the almond blossom is the sign of spring coming.

This gets particularly interesting in light of the custom to eat pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah, the “real” New Year. On a simple level as we go into the season of accounting we hope to be in the black. On Rosh Hashanah we eat the seeds of a pomegranate and say, ” May it be Your will, HaShem, our God and God of our ancestors, that our merits increase as the seeds of the pomegranate. ” On a deeper level as we start the fall season eat the pomegranate seeds as a reenactment of Persephone’s return from Hades, we connect to this first taste of spring. Just as Persephone has to spend half the year with Hades because she tasted the seeds of this tree, with the budding of the almond blossom we prepare for her return of spring. These trees bookend winter with fall and spring.

Before we leave winter and Hades we should take a moment to sit in that experience. Recently a student of mine suggested that I read Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat by Katherine May. It was the right book at the right time for me to lean into this our second winter of Covid. I would recommend it.

There she writes:

Plants and animals don’t fight the winter; they don’t pretend it’s not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through. Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximizing scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs. Winter is not the death of the life cycle, but its crucible.

Wintering

As we reflect on winter, Covid, isolation from community, the rise of hate crimes and anti-Semitism, and the banality of evil, we need to take this moment to sit in the cold and bask in the rest and retreat of winter. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., who’s birthday we celebrate today, “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.” Now more than ever we need to winter and to give some deep thought as to transformation that we want to struggle for in this world. Merry Tu B’Shvat.

Herd Immunity: Amalek and the Most Vulnerable

The last couple of years have felt like a roller coaster ride. We went from weeks of global fear due to a pandemic to moments of personal salvation and back to national challenges only to elation of the creation of a vaccine and all of this has been accented by precious family time in the safety of our home and longing to be with family and friends outside our bubble. We have gone from the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows and back again.

This gives me a have a different insight into the life of the Israelites that we see in B’shalach, this week’s Torah portion. Recently having being freed from slavery in Egypt they find themselves about to die stuck between Pharaoh’s approaching chariots and the sea. And then just like that the sea splits, they escape, and they oppressors drown the bottom of the sea. Continuing the roller coaster ride we go from the high of the Songs by the Sea to the low of their complaining and questioning God about the Manna. If all of this was not enough the portion ends with the lowest of the low, their being routed by the Amalekites. There we read:

The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and because they tried the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord present among us or not?” And Amalek came and made war with Israel in Refidim.

Exodus 17:7-8

On this Rashi comments:

Scripture places this section immediately after this preceding verse (they said, “Is the Lord among us or not?”) to imply, “I am ever among you and ready at hand for every thing you may need, and yet you say, “Is the Lord among us or not?” By your lives, I swear that the hound (Amalek) shall come and bite you, and you will cry for Me and then you will know where I am!” A parable: it may be compared to a man who carried his son upon his shoulder, and went out on a journey. The son saw an article and said, “Father, pick up that thing and give it to me”. He gave it to him, and so a second time and so also a third time. They met a certain man to whom the son said, “Have you seen my father anywhere?” Whereupon his father said to him, “Don’t you know where I am?” — He, therefore, cast him off from himself and a hound came and bit him (Midrash Tanchuma, Yitro 3).

Rashi on Exodus 17:8

On one level this parable seems to align with the little boy who cried wolf. As if God is saying, “You complain, well I will give you something to complain about.” On another level it is interesting in that it evokes the image of a young child as the victim. This is a compelling dimension in the context of what we learn about this attack in Deuteronomy. There we read:

Remember what Amalek did to you on your journey, after you left Egypt— how, undeterred by fear of God, he surprised you on the march, when you were famished and weary, and cut down all the stragglers in your rear.

Deuteronomy 25:17-18

Amalek was particularly awful because they attacked us from the rear. They targeted the most vulnerable among us, the elderly and the children.

This idea was brought to life for me when I saw this extraordinary footage from a drone of a reindeer cyclone from above:

If you are a young, old, or weak reindeer, you will find yourself at the heart of the herd and it offers you protection. If you are strong you are on the outside protecting the weak. The reindeer protect their rear by creating this cyclone.

To only way to deal with the roller coaster is to circle up. In many ways this is the same thinking this is the rationale behind getting vaccinated. This is the very idea of the strong supporting the weak and creating a cyclone effect of herd immunity.

Mixed Multitudes and the Infinite Mindset

Amidst the narrative of our liberation from Egypt, we learn that the Israelites were not the only one’s to get redeemed from slavery. There in Bo, this week’s Torah portion we read:

Moreover, an Erev Rav – mixed multitude went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.

Exodus12:38

Different commentaries explain this Erev Rav. Where they converts, freeloaders, refugees smuggling themselves out with the live stocks, or fellow travelers? In any case there was a great mixing between the Israelites and other freed slaves that were redeemed at the same time.

It is clear the in Genesis the emergent nation of Israel was a family, but in Exodus they are already a people and the lines of who is in and who is not is blurry. For most of our history those lines were more black and white. These divisions were clear because of a larger politics, more brazen anti-Semitism, or particularistic practices. With the advent of the enlightenment many of these lines became blurry. What does it mean to be Jewish? Over time the rates of intermarriage just keep rising? Again we find ourselves amidst these mixed multitudes. What do we make of our fellow travelers?

I was struck recently when I saw this picture of two popular culture icons.

Schitt's Creek's Dan Levy and Parks and Recreation's Rashida Jones Interview
Rashida Jones and Dan Levy

Both Rashida Jones and Dan Levy have a Jewish and a non-Jewish parents. How do we make sense of the Jewish people, nation, family?

I was thinking about the reality of our mixed multitudes recently when reading The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek.  Published in 2019, the book starts with comparing two mindsets for playing any game: Finite Game and the Infinite Game. The concept was heavily inspired by James Carse’s book Finite and Infinite Games as result, it initially summarizes Carse’s distinction between two different types of games. Simon Sinek explains that finite games (e.g. chess and football) are played for the purpose of ending play consistent with static rules. There are set rules, and every game has a beginning, middle and end, and a final winner is distinctly recognizable. Infinite games (e.g. business and politics) are played for the purpose of continuing play rather than to win. Sinek claims that leaders who embrace an infinite mindset, aligned with infinite play, will build stronger, more innovative, inspiring, resilient organizations, though these benefits may accrue over larger timescales than benefits associated with a finite mindset.

Sinek argues that business fits all the characteristics of an infinite game, notably that: there may be known as well as unknown players; new players can join at any time; each player has their own strategy; there is no set of fixed rules (though law may operate as semi-fixed rules); and there is no beginning or end. Further drawing on Carse’s work, Sinek extends the distinction between end states in finite games to claim that business, when viewed through an infinite mindset, do not have winners and losers, but rather players who simply drop out when they run out of the will, the desire, and/or the resources to continue play. According to Sinek, it follows that business leaders should stop thinking about who wins or who is the best and start thinking about how to build and sustain strong and healthy organizations. Simon Sinek considers Infinite Mindset as a necessity to be able to succeed in business for long term. The goal of winning is elusory, when we should be working toward resiliency. This Infinite Mindset allows companies to think better and survive infinitely. Simon Sinek lays down five essential practices necessary to have an Infinite Mindset.

This notion of an Infinite Mindset is not just relevant to a companies sustained success. It is also an interesting lens through which to explore these questions about our mixed multitudes. In the past we have framed intermarriage as a Finite Game. We were “winning” with endogamy and “losing” with marrying out. It seems more interesting to explore an Infinite Mindset. What is the long game? How might we keep playing? What role might these fellow travels have in helping us continue to play this game? Shimon Peres said, “It matters less if you parents are Jewish then if you kids will be. The Jewish future will be written by those who care.” Maybe we should be less focused on the mixed multitudes who came out of Egypt with us in the past, than where liberation might lead our future.

Oscillating History: The Design of Jewish History

In VaEra, this week’s Torah portion, we read about God’s plan to have Moshe liberate the Israelite slaves from Egypt. This theme is echoed in the the haftorah in Ezekiel (28:25-29:21). It begins with a mention of the ingathering of the exiles. There we read:

When I gather in the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they have been scattered, and I have been sanctified through them in the eyes of the nations, then shall they dwell on their land that I gave to My servant, to Yaakov. And they shall dwell upon it securely…

Ezekiel 28:25-26

This seems to be a recitation of the story of Yosef rejoining his brothers as we saw at the end of Genesis. In this context we an interesting pattern of Jewish history emerges. We seem to be going back and forth between dispersal, isolation, and sufferings and ingathering and feeling at home. While this might come to explain the elation around the realization of this prophetic vision in the founding of the State of Israel, it is not what is interesting to me at this moment.

When looking at this pattern from a distance we can see a similar outline of human-centered design. This is an approach to problem-solving commonly used in design and management frameworks that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. Human involvement typically takes place in observing the problem within context, brainstorming, conceptualizing, developing, and implementing the solution.

An Introduction to Human-centered Design (HCD) Process

Just as Jewish history oscillates between our diaspora and homecoming, this design process asks us to move back and forth between divergent and convergent thinking. Together we experience the highest of highs because we are in touch with the user-experience of real pain points.

I was think about this as many of us have had to move back into 2020 Covid isolation. This could be seen as sad or needed Wintering that will eventually yield to the creative boons in spring. Maybe this is just my being hopeful or a belief in the Human-centered creative process.

The Shoes They Filled: NYT & Moshe’s Sandals

There is an incredibly poigniant moment in Shmot, last week’s Torah portion, when Moshe is told to remove is footwear. There we read:

And God said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground.

 Exodus 3:5

Why is Moshe made to shuck shoe? There are many good answers to this question.

Sandals were made of leather. It is possible that God wanted him to remove the impurity of the dead flesh from his body before connecting with God. Another answer is that God was trying to communicate that Moshe need to give up ownership in the world to walk with God. Similarly on this question Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik said

The shoe is the symbol of vulgarity and uncouthness, of superficiality, of raw power… To understand holiness, to gain sensitivity, a person must remove his shoes.

Chumash Mesoras Ha-Rav, p. 24.

On this question Rabbi S.R. Hirsch said,

Taking off one’s shoes expresses giving oneself up entirely to the meaning of a place, to let your personality get its standing and take up its position entirely and directly on it without any intermediary.

Hirsch’s reading is asking Moshe if he is open to the world around him. Is he allowing himself to be vulnerable? As  Brené Brown, my vulnerability Rebbe, teaches:

Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity. If we want greater clarity in our purpose or deeper and more meaningful spiritual lives, vulnerability is the path.

Daring Greatly

Anyone with kids with their Legos knows the pain of stepping on Lego barefoot. To parent means you have to be open to being hurt and being humble. You need to know as much as you might be a creator, you are not God. That it means to be open to being hurt. Unlike the traditional definition of humility, the Jewish definition of a person who has humility is someone who takes up just the right amount of space. A humble person is one who has a healthy sense of self-esteem and is hospitable to others. That means that he does not think he is better than others but also does not feel that he is worse. In many ways Moshe being told to take his shoes off is really just setting him up to put them back on. What space does he need to occupy to become the leader of this liberation movement?

I was thinking about this idea this week when looking at the the New York Times Magazine. Like every year this time the Times runs a spread on famous people who died the prior year. This year they ran a great story about the iconic shoes of people who made a huge impact on our world who passed away this past year. The paint splattered shoes of Eric Carle spoke to me.

Looking at their shoes gives us pause to consider what it would take for each of us to achieve our own potential. Like Moshe we need to take a moment to remove our shoes so that when we step into them we can take up the right amount of space in the world.

Why Return? Allegory of the Good

In Plato’s Republic Socrates presents the most beautiful and famous metaphor in Western philosophy: the allegory of the cave. This metaphor is meant to illustrate the effects of education on the human soul and what might ultimately brings him to the Form of the Good.

In the allegory Socrates describes a dark scene. A group of people have lived in a deep cave since birth, never seeing the light of day. These people are bound so that they cannot look to either side or behind them, but only straight ahead. Behind them is a fire, and behind the fire is a partial wall. On top of the wall are various statues, which are manipulated by another group of people, lying out of sight behind the partial wall. Because of the fire, the statues cast shadows across the wall that the prisoners are facing. The prisoners watch the stories that these shadows play out, and because these shadows are all they ever get to see, they believe them to be the most real things in the world. When they talk to one another about “men,” “women,” “trees,” or “horses,” they are referring to these two dimensional shadows. These prisoners represent the lowest stage on the line—imagination.

A prisoner is freed from his bonds, and is forced to look at the fire and at the statues themselves. After an initial period of pain and confusion because of direct exposure of his eyes to the light of the fire, the prisoner realizes that what he sees now are things more real than the shadows he has always taken to be reality. He grasps how the fire and the statues together cause the shadows, which are copies of these more real things. He accepts the statues and fire as the most real things in the world. This stage in the cave represents belief. He has made contact with real things—the statues—but he is not aware that there are things of greater reality—a world beyond his cave.

Next, this prisoner is dragged out of the cave into the world above. At first, he is so dazzled by the light up there that he can only look at shadows, then at reflections, then finally at the real objects—real trees, flowers, houses and so on. He sees that these are even more real than the statues were, and that those were only copies of these. He has now reached the cognitive stage of thought. He has caught his first glimpse of the most real things, the Forms.

When the prisoner’s eyes have fully adjusted to the brightness, he lifts his sight toward the heavens and looks at the sun. He understands that the sun is the cause of everything he sees around him—the light, his capacity for sight, the existence of flowers, trees, and other objects. The sun represents the Form of the Good, and the former prisoner has reached the stage of understanding.

The might have been the end of the allegory as it is the discovery of the Good, but something drives the enlightened free slave back into the cave to free his fellow slaves. Why does the philosopher return to the cave after seeing the Good?

One answer is that the philosopher returns to the cave to free the cave dwellers out of empathy and pity. Not so long ago he was one of one of them and understands their pain in ways they might not know. Another answer is they he goes back to rule over them. This reason might be for the good or the bad, but the philosopher has a calling to lead. And yet another answer is that he feels some compulsion in that he never really understood how he ended up free. Maybe he has to pay it forward in gratitude for his own experience of freedom. Another version of this answer is this act of freeing the other slaves is an act of resistance against the system that empoisoned him. So this would be less gratitude than vengeance.

I was thinking about this question as to why the philosopher return to the cave after seeing the Good this week when reading Shmot, this week’s Torah portion. There we read the story of Moshe. He was born to slaves. Through was seems like a miraculous story he is unshackled from a grueling life as a slave to be raised in Pharaoh’s house. From there he stands up to the slave masters and must evade them and leaves the cave of Egypt. There he finds shelter and employment with Yitro. One day when working as shepherd for Yitro he goes looking for a lost sheep when he discovers God. Here the Good is not revealed to him as the sun, but the Burning Bush.

And again we are left with the question, why would Moshe return to the cave after seeing the Good? Any of the answers given above for Plato’s philosopher might be accurate. An additional answer given in the Torah is beyond the compulsion of the Good, but the commandment of God.

Sitting to write this post I was listening to Yishai Ribo’s song LaShuv HaBayta and thought of another reason why Moshe and the philospher might have returned. If you have not, listen to this song:

There Ribo sings:

The time has come to wake up

To leave everything- to overcome

To return home

Not to search for any other place.

It is possible that Moshe and the philosopher just wanted to go home. Even if we cannot ultimately stay at home, there is something compelling about homecoming.

In all of these answers to this question there is a profoundness of our individual and collective obligation to serve others in need. At its core this is the foundation of education.

The End if Near- I Hope

Recently I saw this cartoon that seems to speaks to this moment of the resurgence of Covid. It is so spot on:

Seeing this cartoon reminded of the lyrics from Closing Time by Semisonic, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

I was thinking of this all this week when reading parshat VaYechi, this week’s Torah portion, and the end of the book of Genesis. It seems to be the end of all of the stories of the patriarchs and matriarchs and the tying up of all the loss ends.  Yaakov gives all of descendants their blessings, he will give instructions for his death. With Yaakov’s death we are at end the our story being about a family. Next week we will start the story as a nation in Egypt. Here is the end of the family narrative and with that we begin the story of us a people. Is this a moment of happiness or sadness?

This reminds me of a great midrash:

King Solomon has said: The day of one’s death is better than that of his birth. When a human being is born all rejoice, and when he dies all weep. But it should not be so. Rather, at one’s birth no one has yet cause to rejoice; for no one knows to what future the babe is born, what will be the development of his intellect or of his soul, and by what works he will stand; whether he will be a righteous person or a wicked person, whether they will be good or evil; whether good or evil will befall them. But when they die, then all ought to rejoice if they have departed leaving a good name, and has gone out of this world in peace.

This may be likened, in a parable, to two ships that set out to sail upon the great ocean. One of them was going forth from the harbor, and one of them was coming into the harbor. And every one was cheering the ship that set sail from the harbor, and rejoicing, and giving it a joyous send-off. But over the ship that came into the harbor no one was rejoicing.

There was a wise man there who said: “I see a reason for the very opposite conduct to yours. You ought not to rejoice with the ship that is going out of the harbor, for no one knows what will be her fate; how many days she will have to spend on the voyage, and what storms and tempests she will encounter. But as to the ship that has arrived safely in port, all should rejoice with her, for she has returned in peace.”

Midrash Koheleth 7

I was thinking about this idea this past week during Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet. This fast day commemorated when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon.

Asarah B’Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period. This started the Second Temple period. When that came to an end on the 9th of Av we began our rabbinic diasporic reality. Is the end of an era good or bad? Like the wise man in the midrash I want to be an optimist and say that it is a good thing. We call all wish of the end of our current era/situation and dream about what will come next.

Besieged: Choice, SCOTUS, and Jerusalem

Recently I have been reading about the Supreme Courts decision to let the Texas law SB8 stand and their pending decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case in Mississippi. On the second the Center for Reproductive Rights wrote, “For many, the barriers will simply be too high, and they will be forced to endure the substantial risks of continued pregnancy and childbirth.” The implications for women’s health are scary to me. I stand by any religion’s claim that this it is wrong to end a potential life. The Torah takes life and potential life very seriously, even if not the same as each other. And because this is a religious matter I do not believe that the state has a role here. This issue is only compounded by class and access to resources. Only wealthier people have the funds to get out of Texas or Mississippi to terminate those unwanted pregnancies. This newest push to limit women’s access to health care seems like an assault of women’s agency and choice over their own bodies.

It is painful to see laws, mostly written by men, about women’s bodies, lack empathy or understanding of the personal, religious, or public health issues of women. How is a women who believes it is her religious right to make decisions about her own body supposed to interpret this moment? Why is the state in the business of making rules for other people’s bodies? It might seem as the though the womb is being besieged.

Amazon.com: Don't Tread On Me Uterus Graphic T-shirt : Clothing, Shoes &  Jewelry

Regarding the Supreme Courts most recent decision to let the Texas law stand Marc Hearron, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights is quoted to have said:

While SB8 is about abortion, this private enforcement scheme implicates every other constitutional right, If a state can prohibit the exercise of any constitutional right that’s disfavored in that state and get around federal court review by allowing private citizens to sue someone for exercising that constitutional right, then it’s hard to say where this scheme ends. Today’s decision is a marker that says every constitutional right is now at risk.

Texas Tribune 12/10/21

Be it that you agree with Roe v. Wade or not, pushing against this long standing precedent opens a Pandora’s box. This has the potential of allowing the states the discretion to see different people differently under the law. Will we strive to treat everyone fairly, equitably, or justly?

I was thinking about all of this today as Asarah B’Tevet, the 10th of Tevet. This fast day commemorates when Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, began the siege of Jerusalem (588 BCE). 18 months later, on the 17th of Tammuz his troops broke through the city walls. The siege ended with the destruction of the Temple three weeks later, on the 9th of Av (Tisha B’Av), the end of the first Kingdoms and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon. The Tenth of Tevet is thus considered to be the beginning of the end of the Jewish world as it was known during the First Temple period.

As we know from sources such as Eicha (the Book of Lamentations), this siege was brutal, depriving the residents of Jerusalem of basic necessities and forcing them into horrific situations. Asara B’Tevet is significant because it marks the onset of a period of tremendous suffering for the Jewish people.  Jerusalem was the center of our people. In diaspora our yearning for Jerusalem became a bedrock of Jewish identity. I was not just a direction to pray it became our national orientation. It came to represent our national agency and autonomy.

siege of jerusalem | The Deadliest Blogger: Military History Page

Today on Asara B’Tevet and seeing where the court is headed it is hard not feeling besieged. Is this the beginning of the end?

As the story goes, in 1787 as the delegates to the Constitutional Convention are just leaving Independence Hall, a crowd had gathered on the steps there in Philadelphia. They had just decided on the general structure for the new United States. The crowd was eager to hear the news. An anxious women, wearing a shawl, approached Benjamin Franklin and asked him, “well, Doctor, what do we have, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied sagely, “a republic, if you can keep it.”

It is moments like this, when we feel besieged, that we have to ask, will we keep it?


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