Dvar on Parashat B’Ha’alotecha: Numbers 8:1-12:16
Rabbi Em Mueller
Sim Shalom Synagogue
This week we read that God elevates the Levites, who will perform the service for the Israelites in the Tent of Meeting, and will make expiation for the Israelites “so that no plague may afflict the Israelites for coming too near the sanctuary.” (8:19)
As I read these passages, I could not help thinking of our Senators — that as legislators they are to write laws that will protect us, just as the Levites are to protect the Israelites. And I could not help thinking of this week’s 15 hour filibuster led by Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy for gun control. He ended the filibuster when he was guaranteed that a vote would take place on four pending bills that would, among other things, make it illegal for licensed gun sellers to sell a gun to anyone on a terrorist watch list. The Senate did vote on the four bills. None of them were approved by the Senate.
The difference between the Levites and Senators is this: In Torah, the Levites are cleansed: they “purified themselves and washed their clothes; and Aaron designated them as an elevation offering before Adonai…” In 21st century life, there is no cleansing, no purification, no elevation of any class of people who might lead us. The main qualification to become a senator is to have enough money to get elected, which generates a list of people or organizations to whom that senator is beholden.
Perhaps if senators cleansed themselves of the power of the NRA; if they had the courage to oppose the NRA even at the price of the NRA fighting their re-election; if they truly worked for the benefit of the people, not wealthy individuals or organizations, then we the people might be better protected, and our country safer. But the senators won’t get the courage to defy the money people or the NRA unless we raise our voices, as the Israelites do, and complain loud enough for even God to hear! Only when we create enough noise, will senators find the courage to listen to us, and to act!