Friends, I’m at a loss. Like so many of you I’ve heard from this past week, my heart aches and my blood boils and words fail to adequately express my outrage over the murder of George Floyd and my pain at what has followed. Nor can words ease it. We know in Judaism that every life is equivalent to the life of the whole world. And as an officer brutally extinguished Mr. Floyd’s breath, his final breaths — with which he begged to breathe, cried for his mother, pleaded for his life — the world went dark.
The darkness is so deep… Amaud Arbery. Eric Garner. Sandra Bland. Walter Scott… Words are inadequate, yet there are words that need to be said: Black Lives Matter. Words that need to be said again, and again, and again, until our actions speak that truth louder than words. And I say those words — I underscore, I emphasize those words — here. They are both insufficient and necessary.
This past week, on the festival of Shavuot, Jews around the world symbolically gathered at Sinai. The festival of Shavuot commemorates Revelation — matan Torah, the giving of Torah — and goodness knows we could use a little revelation right now. While rabbis have disagreed throughout the generations, there are those who maintain that all of the Torah’s 613 commandments derive from two tablets, the Ten Commandments. Midrash tells us that the latter five commandments (the second tablet) are embodied in the first five. And still others teach that all of Torah boils down to the just first commandment: I am God.
At first glance, that’s not much of a commandment. Where’s the verb? What action should we should take or refrain from taking? What does it have to do with us? But look deeper, listen harder, and like layers of sound that slowly emerge from the deepest silence, all of our most profound values are there…
Oneness. Unity. Connectedness. Breath. Love. Life.
All of the guidance we need is right there… and Josh Nelson captured it beautifully in song. Here’s my take:
(View Josh Nelson’s recently released video of “One and Only” here.)
We are not helpless. After years of effort, CAJM (the Charleston Area Justice Ministry) was successful in pushing the City of Charleston to conduct a racial bias audit of its police force. Those recommendations have been reviewed and the position of Director of Procedural Justice has been created to oversee their implementation as well as stay current in best practices in policing. Now our focus is on bringing the same caliber audit and best practices to North Charleston. Since it’s the power of people that has brought about change thus far, your involvement can and will make a difference in this work — work that, I have no doubt, directly impacts the saving of lives. Monday (tomorrow, as I write these words) at 6:30 pm, CAJM will host a virtual gathering to share updates on all of the issues in which CAJM is involved, including policing. We’ll hear from CPD’s Wendy Stiver, the dynamic newly hired Director of Procedural Justice, as well as ways in which we can build pressure and momentum within North Charleston to undertake the important work Charleston has done. To join myself and several hundred others who are feeling as outraged as you are, email Luann Rosenzweig (firstname.lastname@example.org) to register.
As we shine light into the darkness and work our way toward justice, let no one be alone. May all feel heard before our One and Only.