Small enough to know you. Large enough to serve you.

Vayara (Rabbi Neil’s Sermon 11/19/16)

Rabbi Neil SchumanHow many people here are concerned about the appointment of Steve Bannon as Chief of Staff?

This week, I’ve seen people crying, saying it feels like pre-war Germany and in contrast I’ve met others who feel vindicated and anxious to see change occur.

The ADL has come out against Bannon: “BANNON HAS EMBRACED THE ALT RIGHT, A LOOSE NETWORK OF WHITE NATIONALISTS AND ANTI-SEMITES. The alt right is a loose network of individuals and groups that promote white identity and reject mainstream conservatism in favor of politics that embrace implicit or explicit racism, anti-Semitism and white supremacy.”

Likewise, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid led a Democratic assault Tuesday against President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief White House adviser, arguing Bannon is linked to white nationalists and has supported anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-women views that should disqualify him. “As long as a champion of racial division is a step away from the Oval Office, it would be impossible to take Trump’s efforts to heal the nation seriously,”

On the other hand:

Pamela Geller, a very controversial political commentator who is also Jewish writes: “I am fortunate to say that I have known and worked with Steve Bannon ever since the tragic passing of Andrew Breitbart. While he was at Breitbart, he would ask me to write articles on pressing issues — usually several times each week. Longtime readers who are deeply familiar with my work know that I am a fiercely proud Jew and unapologetic Zionist. As long as I have known Steve, he has been an unabashed supporter of Israel, and of those of us who fight against Jew-hatred and racism. Unequivocally. He is whip-smart, courageous, bold, and loyal.

Allan Dershowitz who’s certainly unabashed when it comes to levying accusations of anti-Semitism and bigotry, took to the media circuit this week to defend Bannon.

Dershowitz said, “I think we have to be very careful before we accuse any particular individual of being an anti-Semite. The evidence certainly suggests that Mr. Bannon has very good relationships with individual Jews… So, I haven’t seen any evidence of personal anti-Semitism on the part of Bannon.” He added, “it is not legitimate to call somebody an anti-Semite because you might disagree with their policies.”

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein proclaimed this week that his group’s “own experience and analysis of Breitbart articles confirms Mr. Bannon’s and Breitbart’s friendship and fair-mindedness towards Israel and the Jewish people.

Even the ADL wrote: WE ARE NOT AWARE OF ANY ANTI-SEMITIC STATEMENTS FROM BANNON. In fact, Jewish employees of Breitbart have challenged the characterization of him and defended him from charges of anti-Semitism. Some have pointed out that Breitbart Jerusalem was launched during his tenure.

So how are we to deal with these two disparate views on our future Chief of Staff?

In this week’s parsha, two angels come to Sodom. Their job is to rescue Lot, Abraham’s nephew and then destroy the city.

Lot though is very reluctant to leave his home, his possessions and his life mission behind:

Genesis Chapter 19: 15 And when the morning arose, then the angels hastened Lot, saying: ‘Arise, take thy wife, and thy two daughters that are here; lest thou be swept away in the iniquity of the city.’ 16 But he lingered; and the men laid hold upon his hand, and upon the hand of his wife, and upon the hand of his two daughters; the LORD being merciful unto him. And they brought him forth, and set him without the city. 17 And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said: ‘Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the Plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be swept away.’

When the destruction began, Lot’s wife started to feel sympathy and pity towards Sodom:

24 Then the LORD caused to rain upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven; 25 and He overthrow those cities, and all the Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground. 26 But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.:

Lot’s wife looked back upon Sodom and became a pillar of salt. Let’s skip the literal reading, for it’s a bit strict. Homiletically though, there’s a great message here: Lot’s wife looks back at Sodom fondly. She’s stuck dreaming about her life there. How wonderful it was, what could have been. She’s stuck in the mud and can’t move on.

Yet, Sodom’s story is over. Lot and his family are being moved on to new future and they don’t luxury of looking back and crying over their loss. At this point in the journey, stopping to cry and lament over what was and what could have been keeps one immobile and impotent.

Some of us are comparable to Lot’s wife. We wanted another outcome to this election, but we’re told to head to the Mountain, to greet a different destiny.

We can’t afford to be like Lot’s wife. Hopefully, Bannon and the other rhetoric we heard from Trump throughout the last 18 months will not turn out as badly as we fear.

No matter what though, we need to head toward the Mountain, ready to handle whatever comes our way.

Shabbat Shalom.

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