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A reflection on the attacks on our Capitol

01/08/2021 02:46:44 PM


Rabbi Bruce Alpert

Watching the news the other night, I found myself recalling a couplet of verses from Psalm 118:

It is better to take refuge in Adonai than to trust in a man.

It is better to take refuge in Adonai than to trust in princes.

I think one of the reasons Jews have prospered so in the United States is that this country has its own version of this biblical caution.  It was expressed by my hero, John Adams, who wrote in the Massachusetts State Constitution that its purpose was to create “a government of laws and not of men.”

The idea is that the laws and the institutions those laws create constitute our greatest protection for our most precious rights.  More than a thousand years earlier, our rabbis came to the same idea when they began building a fence of laws around our Torah to protect the notions of freedom, dignity, responsibility, and sanctity that it creates.

As a small and, in some quarters, despised minority, we Jews know in our bones that our liberties and, indeed, our safety rests in the impartial operation of this country’s laws.  Which is why I believe we watched yesterday’s events with a particular horror.  That, in the end, those laws prevailed is a comfort.  That they could be so assaulted remains a grave concern.

How we came to this pass is, of course, the bigger question.  And it brings to my mind another biblical passage:

They sow wind, and whirlwind they shall reap.

One must remember the context in which Hosea speaks these words.  He is writing of Israel’s faithlessness toward God on the eve of the Assyrian conquest of its ten northern tribes.  In other words, the “they” of whom he is speaking is us: the part of us that has been lost ever since.

We must take care not to lose that which remains of us.  To do so, we must stop sowing wind. And as we confront the whirlwind we have already sown, we must not  forget where our refuge is to be found.  As Americans, our refuge is in our laws and our institutions.  And as Jews, our refuge is Adonai.  Let us, through God’s Torah, find the patience, the humility, the understanding and the love that will protect us in any storm.

Sat, May 18 2024 10 Iyyar 5784