I hear Leviticus, and baseball, speaking

Rabbi James Stone Goodman

By Rabbi James Stone Goodman

I hear Leviticus speaking. Leviticus and Dante got together in the form of a virus, a nonlocal reminder in the language of Leviticus – purity and impurity — that all of us are in this together. 

I hear Deuteronomy speaking. We will be judged by the way we behave. We will be judged by how we treat each other. We have an opportunity to be smart and save lives. 

I hear Deuteronomy speaking. Choose life, think collective. How can we lift up the common good and do what we are told by those who know better? We will find some leadership we can trust. We will vote our discernment.

I hear science speaking. Science is saying hold on, I will catch up. I’m a little behind right now, science is saying, but I have skills. Respect me. I am working hard for you.

I hear Dante speaking, a divine comedy playing now. It begins with a dark vision but moves toward the journey of souls toward G*d that may or may not arrive in Paradise. I hear Dante speaking of serious consequences and careful choices. Be careful, I hear Dante saying.

I hear Emerson speaking about self-reliance. What he meant was the connection with the G*d within, nonconformist and authoritative. Trust yourself, Emerson spoke. We will have to trust ourselves because most of us believe our leadership has been untrustworthy. We will have to move beyond Emerson and think more collectively. Emerson gave us good language for this. 

I hear Exodus speaking. In every generation, a person gets free in individual ways. We will get free, and our freedom depends on becoming a people, then becoming a person. Each person in each generation makes the freedom trip. The great challenge will be becoming a “we” from a loosely bonded crowd of “I’s.”

I hear Passover speaking. Becoming a people prepares us to become a person, to get lean like matzah. To be less is to be more, to be transformed; like chometz and matzah, we are what we are becoming, we are becoming what we are, an internal transformation that does not require a change of substance. 

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To be lean this way, to remove whatever it is that is puffed up within us and insulates us from the truth that we need each other to stay healthy. First we become a people, then we become a person, I hear Purim (see Esther 9:27) and Passover speaking together.

I hear Peace speaking. A song we sing on Friday evening (Shalom Aleikhem) turns on the preposition “to” — move to or toward peace, come in toward peace, bless toward peace, leave toward peace. We are moving to or toward in everything we do. I honor these prepositions. There is so much hope in these small language units.

I hear conjunctions speaking, too. We will have to live in “and” we will have to include the consciousness of the collective “and” in everything we do because our existence depends on it. The whole world is no exaggeration. We are all turning on the holy conjunction “and.” If we have missed that lesson before, we cannot miss it now. We must become an “and.”

I hear baseball speaking, I heard one of the Chicago Cubs saying, some things are bigger than baseball. Summer soon.

Rabbi James Stone Goodman serves Central Reform Congregation and is a past president of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Light.