Rachel Weeping for her Children

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This is what the LORD says: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” -Jeremiah 31:15

In the Torah portion for this week, Vayishlach, Jacob returns home to Canaan with his family.  His beloved wife Rachel, for whom motherhood is her greatest hope, joy and dream, gives birth to a son, Benjamin, and tragically dies as her labor ends.

She is buried by her grief-stricken husband, Jacob, on the road to Bethlehem, with just a marker to indicate her grave.

Since that time to this day, the Jewish tradition views Rachel as the ultimate Mother, sacrificing her life in order to bring forth life.  It is Rachel who, to this day, weeps over the death and suffering of children.

Whatever you may think of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, of Eric Garner, of Tamir Rice in Cleveland, I have no doubt that Mother Rachel is weeping for her children on this day.

Caring Professions vs Craven Politicians

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It was inevitable.  First, they went after the public school teachers, successfully labeling them as overpaid moochers who worked the system, enjoyed “no-show” jobs, and rested comfortably on padded pensions they didn’t deserve.  Now they are going after health care workers, volunteers who join groups like Doctors Without Borders and Samaritan’s Purse and journey to the gates of Hell, Ebola ground zero in West Africa.

Governor Christie has diagnosed Nurse Kaci Hickox as “obviously sick” and has ordered her confined to a hospital in New Jersey in an isolation tent, even though she is completely asymptomatic.  It began with the noxious Trump commenting that any doctor who goes to West Africa as a volunteer deserves to be barred from the US.  Now craven politicians like Christie are demanding that these volunteers be isolated, even without evidence or diagnosis, and against the advice of scientists and physicians.

In part, this is Christie and his partner Cuomo, playing up to fears in an election year critical for them both.  In large measure, however, this is part of the trend toward denigrating anyone whose annual compensation is less than that of say, Carl Icahn.  We hear it a lot-if you choose to go into  teaching or nursing, or social services, or research science, then deal with the fact that your compensation will be low, your working conditions continually degrading, and your job security justifiably iffy.    After all, in the world today the philosophy is “you eat what you kill” and elementary school teachers and nurses are at the bottom, not the top, of the food chain.

The irony is that Nurse Kaci Hickox flew to West Africa and actually helped curb a dreaded disease.  She flew to New Jersey and was defeated by an unstoppable wall-the cynical politics of our time.

The Smarmy Guys Win

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In the movie “Clear and Present Danger”, a square-jawed Harrison Ford angrily confronts his deceitful CIA supervisor.  The supervisor has lied to Ford’s character and to Congress, and has secretly authorized a guerilla war which leads to the death of several American soldiers.  Upon discovering the deceit, Ford storms into his supervisors’ office and says “You’re going to jail, pal!”.  The supervisor, with a smarmy smile across his face, waves a sheet of papers and says “I already  have a Presidential pardon-you have one of these, buddy”?   All Ford can do is leave the room.  At the end of the movie Ford bravely testifies to Congress, knowing that he will be indicted as well, but honesty and truth will out, and Ford is a hero.

Absolute fiction.  In real life, the smarmy supervisor not only will escape all justice, but be promoted, move into a high paying job in the private sector, and write a book that will make him millions.  Few high ranking politicos or their smarmy  appointees “go to jail, pal” and have not for many, many years.  We have raised a generation of Americans for whom honesty, honor, integrity and decency are meaningless.  It is no wonder that in nearby Sayreville,NJ  a cowardly fellow  named George Najjar,  the “coach” of the football players who have now been arrested for sexual violence against younger players has remained absolutely silent.  Why risk anything by speaking out?  Why jeopardize himself by expressing sympathy for the victimized young men under his care?  The smarmy guys have truly won.

We are Sayreville

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The assault\bullying\hazing scandal involving the  Sayreville NJ High School Varsity football team will only get worse.  That much is certain.  It appears that something systematically took place in the locker room that has frightened administrators enough that the entire season is now cancelled.   It does not take great imagination to realize that this was not simple “hazing” of younger players by seniors.  It appears to be something far more serious, possibly violent and sexual in nature.   What is instructive is carefully  reading the responses of the parents of the players:

1. Our kids are innocent, followed by-

2.Some kids are guilty, but not mine-followed by-

3.Ok, my kid may be guilty, followed by-

4.It’s the fault of the coaches and teachers.

The mealy-mouthed responses by the parents are alarming, but the fault is entirely ours.  As a society, over the last few decades, we have tended to excuse and “forgive”  the worst behavior in others and in ourselves.  If you are popular, politically powerful, well known, and financially secure or influential  the chances of any real punishment are just about nil. If you become the media story of the week, maybe something will happen, but that is rare.   Yes, the response of the Sayreville football parents is pretty disgusting, but is it any worse than what we have permitted and encouraged and enabled for a very long time?  Hard to blame the football parents for expecting for themselves and their sons what they see in the papers and in the media every day.  Well respected people get away with pretty egregious crimes all the time.  Why not our kids?

“Yasher Koach” to faithful Christians

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“Yasher Koach” is a common Hebrew phrase, uttered as a compliment to a person who has performed a mitzvah, a commandment.   Multiple news stories have reported in recent days that charitable giving has decreased among the wealthy, while it has increased among the poor and middle class.  (So much for the “makers” vs the “takers”) Most notably, charitable giving has increased in the Evangelical  “Bible Belt” and in Utah (lots of Mormons).  It has decreased in the “Yankee” states of New Hampshire and Maine.  It appears, to this unsophisticated eye, that serious and faithful Christians continue to step up and help, regardless of their personal financial situation.  To my Christian brothers and sisters, yasher koach!