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Bemidbar 5775 – Being Counted

The news of President Obama’s new Twitter feed was not much of a news flash to me (Didn’t he already have one?).

The news of the rapid response of the racists to President Obama’s new Twitter feed made me sad, angry and dispirited.

I know that we are probably speaking of such a small percentage of people who actually would post such nasty, mean-spirited and hateful things. In our day and age, it is does not take many people to stir it up. We live in a world in which the more outrageous or extreme voices gets attention – and, usually, the extremity of those voices are inversely proportional to the amount of people with those views and perspectives.

I want to be counted – along with what I suspect are the plurality of voices – who are outraged that any person – yet less the President of our county – is treated in such a manner. I want to be counted and have the world hear — MOST of us do not feel this way.

I have the same reaction when I pay attention to other ways that racism and prejudice rear their ugly heads in our world. Last summer it was in Ferguson, MO. Just recently it was in Baltimore. I believe that most people in our world want safety, security and opportunity for everyone — regardless of race or socioeconomic status. It seems that we do not have an effective way to say so. I feel strongly about these very fundamental justice issues, but I do not know quite what to do with my convictions.

Can we get our voices heard? Can we be counted?

In our weekly Torah portion, Bemidbar, our spiritual ancestors are, quite literally, being counted as they begin their trek through the wilderness to the Promised Land. In an interesting use of language the command to ‘take the count’ by God, translates literally to “‘Raise the heads’” of all of the people of Israel.’ Rabbi Abraham Twerski suggests that this ‘counting’ is more than a simple act of logistics, but an act of empowerment:

“The Divine words were therefore carefully chosen to avoid misrepresentation of the symbolism of the desert: ‘Elevate the heads of the entire congregation.’ Every individual should know that he or she is capable of being elevated, of achieving the greatest heights.”

When we raise our heads (and probably our hearts and our souls, too) – it is then we are counted. When we raise our heads, we remember that we can elevate ourselves and the world around us to heights we envision.

Perhaps, we can start being counted in this way in regard to these issues in our own backyard – which for our Micah community is Park Hill. Park Hill is a very diverse community – and in many ways it is a microcosm of our larger society. I know we live all over the Denver Metro Area. I realize, too, that our reach to the Oval Office or to Ferguson or to Baltimore is limited at best. By being a part of Temple Micah we are all deeply connected to a neighborhood where we can be counted. When we stand and be counted anywhere, we are taking the steps toward everyone being counted, everywhere. Come let’s begin being counted together …

REAL Park Hill – a burgeoning grassroots coalition of religious institutions and communal support organizations – is coordinating a Community Walk through ‘our’ neighborhood. We will walk together – Black and White (and all the ‘colors’ of the rainbow that make up Park Hill); Jew and Christian (and all of the religious expressions and non-expressions that make-up Park Hill); ‘Middle’ Class and ‘Lower’ Class (and all of the various distinctions we put on one another). We’ll sing, maybe tell a few stories and get to know the Other – whoever the Other may be. As we walk together we intend to let those with whom we share all of our neighborhoods know that we value justice, compassion and peace. And, that we are willing to stand, walk and be counted in order to make our values energize, enliven and encompass our world. We will gather on Friday, May 29th at 7:00pm at 3333 Holly St (the Vicker’s Boys and Girls Club).

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