Every week, I read the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, and they always inspire me. I found this week’s reading so pertinent to our current climate, that I needed to just about copy what he wrote:
“When speaking to a people about their imminent freedom, what would a leader say?”
“Most people answer: freedom. That was Abraham Lincoln’s decision in the Gettysburg Address, when he invoked the memory of ‘a new nation, conceived in liberty,’ and looked forward to ‘a new birth of freedom.’ Some suggest that they would inspire the people by talking about the destination that lay ahead, the land ‘flowing with milk and honey.’ Yet others say they would warn the people of the dangers and challenges that they would encounter on what Nelson Mandela called ‘the long walk to freedom.”
The Rabbi then goes on to tell us what Moses said to the Jewish people on the eve of them leaving Egypt:
“And when, in time to come, your child asks you, saying, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘It was with a mighty hand that the Lord brought us out from Egypt, the house of bondage.’
Moses did not mention anything imminent, yet he did talk about the future– about education.
In today’s climate of extreme hatred and destruction, storming the capital, riots, looting, and violent protests, education remains the key to solving these problems. We need to educate our children that no matter what, violence is not the answer, and we must educate our children that we need to always listen to one another. Furthermore, we need to make people feel safe to express their opinions without judgement, so that we can guide them, or redirect them if they are misguided.
I am reminded of a story about the great leader Nelson Mandela. When he was in jail, the guards were instructed to brutally beat him daily– yet every single day, Mr. Mandela would still greet these vicious guards with kindness and a smile, telling them he knew that they were only doing as they were instructed. After a few weeks of his unflinching kindness and tolerance in the face of brutality, the guards refused to beat him anymore. While I am not expecting any of us to turn the other cheek in this way, it is an extreme proof that education, a smile, kindness, tolerance, and patience can affect lasting change, while hate, harm, and violence create a cycle of just that– hate, harm, and violence.
This week, let’s let people know that they are entitled to their opinions, and that we shall listen. Let’s carefully acknowledge each person’s humanity, and then share our opinions with them in a kindly, loving manner, as this is a form of education that truly has the power to shift, repair, and save our world.
Accountability, Community, Unconditional Love
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