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Butterflies and Broken Glass

06/03/2020 02:34:37 PM


Dearest Rodfei Zedek,

About a month ago we got a package in the mail that read “Live Animals”. The live animals were caterpillars. My girls watched each step in the biological process of caterpillars turning into butterflies: from being small creatures in a little jar to metamorphosing into chrysalises and then, eventually, into beautiful butterflies that they set free on the first day of Shavuot. 

Throughout this period of isolation I have felt like those butterflies, with the outside world beyond my grasp and lately, beyond my reach. I felt this way even more acutely yesterday after reciting Havdalah and then turning on the 10:00 pm news after two days of being isolated from the secular world. 

It was a beautiful Shavuot, a holiday where we honor the giving of the Torah. This festival is not only about the awe and grandeur of that moment of Revelation, but the Torah’s unending promise of beauty and meaning through the unassailable truth that we are all built in the Divine Image. These last two days, relishing the unending blessing of rest and reflection within my home and community, contrasted with riots across the country. Watching them hammered home to me how privileged I am, and I do not mean the privilege to be a Jew.

It is easy to ignore what happens beyond our line of sight. COVID-19 has made that even easier. The rage being felt across the country is the underclass, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable bursting through the cocoons that their country has woven around them: bound up and with no wings to fly. This would be true without the tragic and unforgivable loss of George Floyd’s life, but like so much that we are seeing, or are privileged to be able to avoid seeing, all people are not equal. Like the virus, people are not colorblind to race. 

Sit with that discomfort. If that compels you to action, I hope it is peaceful and impactful. If action and protest are not your means of civic and community engagement, or you disagree with my conclusions, I hope you are moved to empathize in a way you haven't before. Like always, I welcome you to push back, but first, stop and consider a reality other than your own.

We had a beautiful communal celebration of the Festival of Torah and I cannot thank you enough for bringing that meaning and joy to a holiday that, typically, is of limited reach. Yet its abrupt end also felt biblical. The descent from Revelation on Mt. Sinai quickly regressed into the creation of the Golden Calf. One of the reasons that happened was that Moses left the Israelites to receive the Word from God, but did did create protective structures for the vulnerable Israelites.

Most of us have been spared the harm and danger that many other people feel with the rising of the sun. Yet this privilege, for those of us who have benefited from it, is fragile and one our people have only very recently been granted. We must use this privilege and our historical memory (and for some, firsthand experience) to care more deeply, to build bridges that are stronger and elevate leadership that is not simply compassionate but creates changes that bring about the peace and justice our tradition and community pursues.  


Rabbi David Minkus

Please also see the statements from The Jewish Theological Seminary:                                                  and from Jewish Public Affairs:

Mon, October 18 2021 12 Cheshvan 5782