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D’var Torah for Haftorah for Sh’lach Lecha 5780

06/25/2020 04:25:44 PM


Anne Lowe

In today’s Haftorah for, Sh’lach Lecha, corresponding to Joshua 2: verses 1-24, we read how the harlot, Rahab, hid and saved the spies of Israel, when they came to reconnoiter the city of Jericho for the entrance of the Israelites into the Promised Land.


In the last D’var Torah I gave to you all, at the beginning of May, last month, I said, “There is a close connection in the Torah where priests and widows and orphans are often mentioned in the same verse, sometimes in the same sentence.  I find it intriguing and gratifying that the most esteemed members of the Hebrews, the priests, are somewhat linked to the most vulnerable: widows and orphans. This is evident three times in the parasha Re-eh, in Deuteronomy.


We each have that spark of humanity, of wholesomeness, of holiness within us, whether we are an unknown, nameless soldier who has perished for his country, or an orphan or a widow trying to scrape out a living and depending on the goodness of others, or even a kohane, who is also relying on the benevolence of his fellow Jews for his sustenance.”


And now, I would like to add that our holy books include another member of society who becomes elevated by her humanity. The harlot Rahab, is not denigrated by her profession, but instead is esteemed by her loyalty and awe of our Lord. Just as the Righteous Gentiles of the Holocaust are revered at Yad Vashem for hiding Jews at mortal danger to themselves and their families, so too, is Rahab exalted by hiding the two spies on her rooftop in Jericho. In fact, our Etz Hayim, on page 858, in footnote 11, tells of a midrash that Rahab converted to Judaism, married Joshua, and together they produced prophets including Jeremiah. So the harlot, Rahab, is another spark of humanity deserving of respect and acceptance.


So my thoughts have led me to the thousands of sparks of humanity that have perished so far in this virus plague we are all fighting each in our own way. We are indeed in the midst of Biblical Times, especially here in Tucson. A pandemic that is spreading instead of diminishing, joined by mountain wildfires that have made friends and neighbors evacuate their homes, and added to nationwide protests and police brutality- all of these things make our lives uncertain and in jeopardy. We must continue to shelter in place, to wear face masks when out in the public, for our safety and the safety of others, to leave our homes if necessary, and to treat those other sparks of humanity as valued persons, be they Black, Native American, Latino, orphans, widows, or prostitutes.  Their lives are as precious as our own.


If we borrow words from the Negro Spiritual, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho, and the Walls Came Tumbling Down”, then we can make the walls of steel and mortar on our southwest borders, and walls of unfounded hatred and fear, come tumbling down as well. It is for you and me to swing the sledgehammers of human dignity. Let all sparks of humanity thrive in our land.


Shabbat Shalom.

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782