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New Paradigms of Leadership (Tetzveh – 2/24/18)

Rabbi Neil Schuman

New Paradigms of Leadership
The Parkland Shooting was a heinous act of violence and brutality that broke our hearts once more. Shootings continue one after another, and yet nothing changes. We have felt powerless, handcuffed by our own government. But last week we witnessed something marvelous and unseen in recent history: a groundswell of advocacy by teenagers. Thousands of chanting students, including survivors of the Florida school shooting, rallied at the Florida State Capitol on Wednesday, demanding changes to gun laws and threatening to remove representatives who refuse to implement new gun-control measures.
There were walkouts at schools all across Florida and students carried large signs, each listing the name of a school where a shooting has taken place, with the date of the shooting and the number of dead. Others carried signs with #NeverAgain and “I will not be a victim.”
One survivor of the attack, Aly Sheehy, post a poem on Twitter,
Dear Mr. President
My friends have died, they are gone from our lives,
Yet you sit there, twiddling your thumbs.
My friends have died, the life gone from their eyes,
Yet you sit there, talking anything but guns.
My friends have died, and we’ve cried and cried,
Yet you sit there, blaming the mentally ill.
My friends have died, our voices pushed aside,
Yet you sit there, you sit there still.
My friends have died, and our tears aren’t dried,
Yet you sit there, watching us plead.
My friends have died, an issue nationwide,
You sit there still, so how ’bout you lead?
As a community forever unified,
I ask you Sir, how did this happen to us?
I invite you to learn, to hear the story from inside,
Cause if not now, when will the right time to be to discuss?
Now, President Trump did not cause this problem nor is he the only president to blame. None of our Presidents have done anything to stem the violence caused by semi-automatic weapons since the Columbine attack nineteen years ago.
Even the students rallying in Florida were dismissed quickly, as the discussion for limiting semi-automatic weapons was removed from the table within three minutes. The House voted down the motion 71 to 36 as survivors of the shooting watched in despair from the gallery of the Capitol.  But they’re not giving up. On March 24, the students are organizing rallies across the country to continue the pressure on this essential issue.
I find our youth taking these issues by the horns fascinatingly in concurrence with the teachings from this week’s Torah reading.
In our Parsha, Moshe isn’t mentioned by name and it seems that God is speaking directly to us instead. (Exodus 27:20)
ספר שמות פרק כז
כ) וְאַתָּה תְּצַוֶּה אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ שֶׁמֶן זַיִת זָךְ כָּתִית לַמָּאוֹר לְהַעֲלֹת נֵר תָּמִיד
“And you should command the Children of Israel, and they should take to you pure oil to light the Menorah.” We are the ones ultimately responsible to ensure that the light remains inside our sanctuaries. We are the ones charged with spreading the light of Torah, of social justice and peace.
           ספר שמות פרק כח
א) וְאַתָּה הַקְרֵב אֵלֶיךָ אֶת אַהֲרֹן אָחִיךָ וְאֶת בָּנָיו אִתּוֹ מִתּוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי אַהֲרֹן נָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא אֶלְעָזָר וְאִיתָמָר בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן:
“And you should bring forth Aharon and his sons, from the Children of Israel to serve me…”
Aharon and his sons were the priests of our nation, the spiritual leaders. It is up to us to make sure that they’re on track serving the needs of our people and not their private agendas.
ג) וְאַתָּה תְּדַבֵּר אֶל כָּל חַכְמֵי לֵב אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאתִיו רוּחַ חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי אַהֲרֹן לְקַדְּשׁוֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי:
“And you should speak to the all the wise of heart who I have filled with wisdom…”
Speak to the teachers, innovators, the brain trust of the Jewish people. Are they working on our mission? Are their skills being utilized for what we and the world really need?
This is an incredibly novel idea; it’s not just Moshe and the elite that are responsible for the direction of the Jewish people, rather, it’s “Atah-You”: we are the ones responsible. There will be times when the rabbis, teachers and scholars of the Children of Israel may be off track; therefore, it’s up to us to speak to them, to make sure that they’re truly working in the best interests of the Jewish people and the world at large, and not seeking personal or political agendas.
It’s been nineteen years since Columbine, and we’ve suffered attack after attack upon schools, concerts, nightclubs, and churches, all enabled through semi-automatic weapons. Yet, year after year, nothing changes. The gun lobby has our government eating out its hand. Thankfully, our youth are following the directives of the parsha and speaking up to them.  Small changes have already occurred since their Wednesday rally with certain stores (Dick’s Sporting Goods) reversing their policy of selling semi-automatic weapons, and others revoking NRA members their special buying privileges.
I believe it’s imperative that we support all of our youth to continue rallying for a safer America. Therefore, for the follow-up “March for our lives” rally on Saturday, March 24 in Nassau or NYC (we’ll decide as a group soon), we should encourage all, teens and parents, to join in. Too many innocents have died over the past 19 years for us not to rally. “When one saves a single life, it’s as if he rescued an entire world.”
Let’s rescue our world!

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