Rabbi Leiken’s Shabbat Message for February 12th, 2021

Wherever we may stand on the impeachment debate, I believe we can all agree that the violence that occurred inside of our Capitol building on January 6th represented an abandonment of the rule of law that we Americans so cherish. As our Congress attempted to ratify the Electoral College vote, domestic terrorists torpedoed into the halls and offices where our laws are written. The terrorists beat down officers of the law, tore through the desks and offices of lawmakers and attempted to argue that violence and strength matter more than rules.

Americans believe that no individual or group is above the rules which govern human behavior. This acceptance of law as the core foundation of our society is derived from the Jewish tradition. When the Israelites stood at the base of Mount Sinai, God handed them the Torah – a book of law, a judicial guide to living life. In the United States, the corollary of the Torah is our Constitution. Just as the Rabbis seek to understand Torah through the dialogues of commentaries and law codes, so too does our nation seek better understanding through legal arguments and court decisions.

What should bother us most about the violence of January 6th is this growing consensus amongst parts of our country that laws no longer matter, that rules have somehow ‘changed’ and that we need to fight for our country without paying heed to the legal structure by which our country is governed.

In this week’s Torah portion, we are introduced to a diverse array of rules and laws – which are to govern the Israelites’ way of life. We learn that a legal culture in which agreed upon standards, limitations and measured judgements must take precedence over the desire for power. In coming weeks, we will learn about characters who rebel against this culture and seek to replace it. But, ultimately, it is this dedication to the rule of law that defines our people and ultimately our American nation as well.

May we all recognize the necessity of the rule of law in our days, and the need to seek justice for all who seek to evade it.

Shabbat Shalom.

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