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Rabbi Sydni's Shabbat Sermons

פרשת חיי שרה, תשפ״א

Parshat Hayei Sarah, 5781

by Rabbi Sydni

Saturday, November 14th, 2020

Shabbat of Service to Our Country

So far in our liturgy today, we have asked God for peace in Sim Shalom, one of the last prayers of our Amidah, in our Kaddish Shalem with the final words of Oseh Shalom, in our prayers following the Torah reading, and every other time we have mentioned the word shalom. That word - peace - quite literally means completeness, wholeness - when one part of our world experiences a time of calm and comfort, that cannot count as peace. Shalom cannot exist until the entire world experiences health, happiness, and freedom.

It is a beautiful vision but one that requires an incredible amount of effort. Psalm 34 frames peace as a command - “בקש שלום ורדפהו” - Seek peace and pursue it! The Rabbis of Talmud Yerushalmi run with that idea of peace as obligation - “The Torah does not order you to run after or pursue the other commandments, but only to fulfill them on the appropriate occasion. But with peace you must seek in your own place and pursue it even to another place as well.” Shalom - completeness, wholeness, peace - cannot be achieved casually; it cannot be achieved by simply staying home, but rather, it must be achieved with active planning and venturing out of the comfort of home.

Each and every one of us can pursue peace through our every-day actions, through our respectful speech towards the other, and more broadly, through whom we choose to govern our nation. So many of the choices we make as citizens of our country affect not only the allocation of our military’s resources, but also, the lives of those who have chosen to serve our country and the lives of those people our military personnel will encounter abroad. So many of us work in professions that contribute to peace - emotional peace among families and individuals, communal peace through the safety of our area, and physical peace through health care and nourishment. But there are also many among our community who pursue peace much more directly - through their choices and their historical obligations to engage in combat, to gather intelligence, and to provide support, maintenance, ingenuity and so many of the countless other roles essential to our military. A world of completeness cannot be achieved without the risks taken by those who go out into that world for our sake.

Today, may all of us seek a nation that uses its balance of idealism and discretion to strive for and pursue a world of peace. And may we take the time to honor and learn from those who have put their lives at risk and have moved their families from place to place so that we could better achieve that ideal world. Thank you, everyone who has spoken this weekend and everyone present who has served or who has supported a family member who has served in our military.

עשה שלום במרומיו הוא יעשה שלום עלינו ועל כל ישראל ועל כל יושבי תבל ואמרו אמן.

May the one who enacts peace enact peace upon us, upon all of Israel, and upon the entire world, and let us say Amen.