January 16, 2015
In Hasidic Tales, there is a story called Come with me, that tells the story of a successful Jewish entrepreneur who was well connected to the Polish authorities. He is asked by his rabbi to speak on behalf of the Jewish people to a cruel government minister in Warsaw about upcoming legislation that would force Jews to burn all sections of the Shulchan Aruch, legislation that dealt with civil and criminal law. This would force the Jews to settle these matters in Polish courts, and thereby weaken the authority of the rabbis. The entrepreneur is terrified because he is sure that if he does as his rabbi has asked, he would certainly be killed. The rabbi instead reminds him of Exodus 9 where God asks Moses to come to Pharaoh. The rabbi asserts that God knew Moses was afraid and so he asked him to come with me to pharaoh, reminding Moses that God was always with him. The rabbi tells him if he goes alone he is doomed, but if he comes with God like Moses did, then he will succeed, and he does succeed. (1.)
This tale came to mind as I began to reflect on my first few weeks here with you at Trinity. You have in so many ways in such a short period invited me to come with you and God at a time of renewal and transformation in this community. Like Moses and the entrepreneur in the tale, I have been invited to come with. I have been invited to engage the stranger and see into his/her heart so that I too might find the same heart beating in both of us.
The interpreters of this tale tell us that we must know the heart of the stranger, because we know what it is to be a stranger, and thus to know the stranger is to know the enemy. Conversely, to know the enemy is to know our own heart. To know our own heart is to know God is both self and stranger, friend and foe. This knowing fills us with a deep and abiding courage and joy, and it is this joy that embraces the stranger and invites her to come to God through us. (2.) I am grateful and honored to join you and God on this journey. May we together come with God to share in God’s mission in our community especially as we prepare for our Annual Meeting on January 25th following the combined 10am service!
- Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Hasidic Tales: Annotated & Explained. (Vermont: Sky Light Paths Publishing, 2004), pgs. 50-53-Paraphrased.
- Ibid. Paraphrased.