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Serving as a guiding promise for life ahead

08/15/2019 01:06:20 PM


Caroline Dorn

This week's Torah portion, Va-etchanan, takes us to the banks of the river Jordan. We are reminded of the commitments we made and commandments we were given millennia ago at Mount Sinai and implored to obey them exactly as written on the two tablets of stone - nothing more than the words God spoke, and nothing less.
As headlines arise this week about re-interpreting the words of Emma Lazarus as inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, it calls to wonder: what is a commandment? Which words are we bound to by law, by covenant, by sacred responsibility - and which are we free to shed or expand upon? Whose words and interpretations shall we take into our hearts, and whose shall we choose to discard?
The Statue of Liberty carries her own tablet with the inscription JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776), and is later marked with a plaque with Emma Lazarus’ words – the words which met our ancestors at pivotal moments. They can be interpreted not only in context of their intended meaning, but in the time and place they exist - in moments of movement and change. They are not simply directions, but sacred covenants that evolve in context yet remain steadfast in ideology, much as we count on the Statue of Liberty to remain unwavering. Whether at the foot of Mount Sinai or arriving at Ellis Island, the words inscribed serve as a guiding promise for a new life ahead.

Caroline is the Temple Membership and Engagement Coordinator

Sun, November 17 2019 19 Cheshvan 5780