A Rabbi Somewhere May Offer These Words

A Rabbi Somewhere May Offer These Words

Dave Schechter

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Good yontif.

I am humbled by the challenges before me.Editor’s Notebook: Greatest Newspaper Ever 1

Looking over this sanctuary, the first is to remember your names, as some of you visit just once or twice a year.

I see that most of you dressed up for the occasion. It’s not necessary. God is more interested in how you look on the inside.

How’s that for slipping in a message?

In a little while, our treasurer will deliver what is commonly referred to as a schnorr.

She will remind you that, as the commercial says, membership has its privileges. One of those is paying your dues.

This congregation is a living entity, one that needs to pay its mortgage, the electricity and gas bills, the heating and air-conditioning bills, its teachers and its staff.

If your child can tell me during bar mitzvah tutoring about the family ski trip to Colorado, please don’t say that you can’t pay your dues.

My next challenge is to select a subject for this sermon.

Many rabbis choose the High Holidays to speak about Israel, and this year that means talking about Iran, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

I won’t be one of those rabbis.

I am less concerned about what opinions you hold than that your life as a Jew plays a role in how those opinions are formed.

I am concerned, however, that you speak respectfully — in person and online — when you discuss such issues. We may be the people of the book, but many comments I read on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere online are better suited for a bathroom wall.

Think twice before you label someone a self-hating Jew or suggest that their loyalties are misplaced.

Judaism considers disparaging talk about another person to be a sin. Such speech is lashon hara, which in Hebrew means “evil tongue.”

The Talmud tells us that lashon hara injures three people: the speaker, the person who hears it and person about whom it is said.

If your intent is to defame, it does not matter whether what you say is the truth. You are forbidden to repeat such remarks when you hear them. You also are advised to either ask the speaker to cease or to remove yourself from that person’s presence.

That might include turning off the television or radio or closing out of a website.

For example, Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, has cancer.

I read online and even have heard aloud wishes that his death come quickly because he is an enemy of the Jewish people and of Israel.

I will not use this pulpit to discuss the truth or falsehood of that statement. You can read his books and study his words and actions and form your own opinions.

That said, Mr. Carter’s opinions about Israel are not the totality of the man, nor are any of us defined solely by our opinions on a particular subject.

Mr. Carter is a man of faith who has devoted himself to public service in the military, in politics and in private life.

Keep in mind his humanity — and that of other people about whom you are tempted to offer an opinion. Would you, in similar circumstances, want words considered lashon hara spoken about yourself or someone close to you?

We are beginning a new year, 5776 on the Jewish calendar.

In our deeds and in our words, let us dip the apple into the honey and be mindful of that which tastes sweet on our tongue, rather than that which is foul.

L’shana tova tikvateinu.

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