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Sermon: The Solution, Not the Problem 3/22/2019

There is an old saying about the relationship between a messenger and a message. HaShem shows us things sometimes in very interesting and unusual ways, sometimes where we least expect it. Nevertheless, growth is growth, and it can be very important to pay attention.

Having said that, I feel like I got a message very recently. It came from a very unexpected source but seemed to be confirmed by more familiar personages. As a clergy, it is my responsibility to minister to not just our congregation, but also the Jewish and even the general community at large. It’s necessary, then, to not just try to make sense of things that happen to us, sometimes very horrific, in terms of our Jewish principles.

In short, it is more helpful and efficacious to spend more time on the solution, rather than the problem. We’ve some terrible incidents lately, so let’s talk about how we can deal with them.

Let us presume, for the moment, that people act in extreme ways because they are desperate, have reached the end of their rope, so to speak, and see no other way. Ours is to see that other way. Our Holy Scriptures and documents are full of uplifting, fulfilling and positive solutions.

Probably the most important and well-known is to love your neighbor as yourself. This can probably be interpreted in a number of ways. Let us suppose that there are people you just don’t want to love no matter what’s at stake. OK, but then at least respect them, right? You may not want to invite certain people for tea, but understand that they have hopes and dreams just like you do, and are entitled to them.

In business dealings it’s important to be honest and straightforward. We live by mitzvot. First and foremost, we believe that the highest form of charity is helping someone become financially self-sufficient; this means it is actually a good deed to do business with them. We also don’t put a stumbling block in front of the blind. Besides the obvious literal meaning, we also don’t take advantage of someone’s lack of experience or knowledge doing a business deal. Finally, we use accurate weights and measures and don’t try to fool them so we can make more money that to which we’re entitled.

In our social interactions, we also want to be kind to the stranger because we were once strangers in a strange land. Torah commands us to help the widow, orphan and proselyte—people most vulnerable in society. We also help someone in need, someone who’s beast of burden has fallen by the road.

It starts with just one person. The way to make a forest greener and more beautiful is to nurture the individual trees. If we would all start doing that, maybe people who are desperate might consider more productive ways to resolve their issues.

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