As we prepare this message, the fireworks are coloring the sky and we’re still donning our red, white and blue clothes to remind ourselves of the special nature of this day.  This year, while we celebrate America’s independence we are also mindful of this great reckoning happening in our midst.

The civil rights leader, Vincent Harding, back in 2007 wrote an essay in which he posed questions that are worthy of our consideration still today:

What is the America that we dream, that we hope for, that we vow to help bring into being?”

To whom do we think America belongs, and who has the essential responsibility for its future?

What shall [we] do with the idea of an America in process, an America that is not a finished, sharp-edged block of white granite but is instead a malleable, multicolored gift of clay; still seeking, taking, giving shape, purpose, and direction?

In the Torah portion that we read this Shabbat, Hukkat Balak, we read about Moshe losing his patience with our ancestors, striking the rock, falling on his face, and then calling the People rebels. It seems that Moshe lost his ability to take the long view required to help the People envision a better future. Without a long view, he wouldn’t be able to help the others hold onto hope and faith that they could and eventually would reach their Promised Land.

These questions and reminders should be helpful to us: it will take work again (it always does) but whether we’re dreaming of a better America or better days to come once this pandemic is over… let us all aspire to take the long view, to ask ourselves big questions this weekend, and let us remind ourselves of the the message of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirke Avot:

It is not our responsibility to finish the work of perfecting the world, but we are not free to desist from it either.

Happy Independence Day, America, and may we all  be engaged in the work of becoming.

6 thoughts on “Rabbi’s weekly message July 4”

  1. Renee King says:

    Your message is beautiful, thoughtful, and certainly encompasses the reality before us and opens the path of travel for our minds, hands, and feet. Thank you for always hitting the mark so perfectly. Vincent Harding’s questions deserve answers we should work to respond with the teachings of Hashem and with the freedom of our country should mean.

  2. Sheryl Title says:

    Rabbi Saroken, As always your meaningful words are thought provoking and inspiring to be positive, hopeful, helpful, and grateful! XO, Sheryl

  3. Steve Silber says:

    Thank u for you’re words of wisdom

  4. Barbara Wolf says:

    it is so easy to become despondent over the course of the health of our nation as well as the inequality that exists. Your words help us remember that we cannot heal all the above but we can help in whatever ways we are able; kindness, love, hopefulness, and caring and respect for others! Thank you for your timely message.
    Barbara Wolf

  5. LINDA NEUWIRTH says:

    Yasher koach, Rabbi! Thank you so much!

  6. Jennifer Berman says:

    Amen! Thank you for your thoughtful and comforting message Rabbi Sarokin!
    Jennifer xo

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