Watch Where You’re Going, Not Where You’ve Been –  Shabbat Masei Friday July 29, 2022

It’s always such a joy for me to see a leader of our country visiting Israel, as President Joe Biden did this past week. I don’t care about your political persuasion. For most of us American Jews, watching the president or vice president of the United States spending precious days in Eretz Yisrael is a real rush. It’s a source of pride, as both countries not only recognize the value of our strategic alliance, but also celebrate the connection in our shared values. Upholding democracy. Sustaining humanity. And fostering security.

When I was a rabbinical student studying in Israel for a year, I remember the excitement, the crowds, the energy throughout Israel when President Clinton came to celebrate the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, which he had helped to broker – a treaty that allowed a group of us student rabbis on winter break to be among the first to walk across the Israeli-Jordanian border, Israeli visas stamped into our passports, without trouble, and with a warm welcome.

The following spring, we were among dozens of Americans and Israelis gathered outside Prime Minister Rabin’s official residence to cheer Vice President Gore and his then-wife Tipper, as they came to Jerusalem to promote America’s efforts to bring peace to the region.

It was so wonderful and so important for us to know that they were experiencing Israel in all its modern vibrancy as well as honoring its past.

Which was why the media coverage of President Biden’s recent visit made me so sad.

We know that the president got a briefing on security and defense, including a close-up look at the Iron Dome missile defense system. We know he and his hosts joined in a virtual meeting with their counterparts in other countries to talk about regional priorities like food security and technology innovation. We know he took part in the opening ceremonies of the Maccabiah games, the Jewish equivalent of the Olympics.

But the only news reports I saw were of his stop at Yad Vashem, where he honored the memory of the dead of the Shoah and met with several survivors of the Nazi genocide. It was emotional. It was important. But it is really the only visual content that most of us have of his visit to Israel.

Apparently, the president asked for the visit. But the Israeli leadership was very accommodating. For them, a prominent and highly publicized visit to Yad Vashem is requisite for any foreign dignitary that visits the Jewish homeland. You don’t go home without it.

My first thought was: Why? Why is this all that I’m seeing? Why is this the only thing the world will remember about this visit?

My friend and colleague Rabbi Jeff Salkin, who was in Israel at the time, thought the same thing. And as always, he has written magnificently about it.

In his on-line commentary this week, Rabbi Salkin answered the question this way:

“You, dear visitor,” he wrote, “are visiting Yad Vashem because it tells you why there must be an Israel. Yad Vashem is the story of Jewish powerlessness. We will never be powerless again. This is why there is an Israel.”[1]

I think he’s exactly right. But I also think there’s more to it. I’d suggest that requiring foreign leaders – especially Western leaders – to take part in the Yad Vashem photo op also has to do with guilt. The guilt of the Allies for allowing six million to die when they could have stepped in to stop it. When they –- when we — could have accepted millions of fleeing European Jews but closed our doors instead. When we could have bombed the rail lines that took Jews to the gas chambers. When we resisted allowing Jews to flee to what was then British Mandate Palestine. Never forget, President Biden was reminded, that America – that beacon of freedom and democracy — should have done more then and owes us more now.

And that, for me, is a problem. Because this message of why we need an Israel, why Israel should exist as a Jewish state, can easily be turned against us. It suggests that Israel only exists as a post-war colonialist enterprise, imposed on the Middle East by the victorious Western powers. This message is at the heart of growing antisemitism and Jew-hatred on the left, where many well-meaning people are being deluded by antisemites into condemning Israel and Zionism and Zionists and all  Jews as colonial racists who have stolen the land of the native Palestinian population and want to see them destroyed.

All of it is nonsense and lies, of course. But the PLO and the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have been very successful at promoting it . It has resonance among young people – even young Jews, even young rabbinic students. They agree to leave a huge part of their Jewish identities at the door, because they are so eager to be part of the coalition that is assailing us on the left, as white supremacists are on the right.

Nobody should be forced to do that. And if Israel were not, in some way, pushing that Shoah narrative so hard, maybe we’d be better equipped to educate so many well-meaning people who clearly know so little about the history of the Middle East, the Jewish people and our three-thousand-year connection to the land. Clearly, there’s a lot of ignorance about the modern state of Israel, where the majority of the Jewish population is not European Ashkenazic – that is, non-white. Obviously, there’s a lack of nuanced understanding that the modern Palestinian – Israeli conflict is one of competing valid historical narratives, not one of racism.

As Rabbi Salkin wrote, the sympathy of the world after the Shoah “lubricated the wheels of the creation for the state, but it was not solely responsible for creating the state . . . these stories that connect Israel with the Shoah are not wrong . . . but they are incomplete.”

I’m grateful to Rabbi Salkin for directing me to a decades-old essay by the late Rabbi David Hartman, whose name adorns a trans-denominational institute in Jerusalem where he was studying this summer. Rabbi Hartman challenged us to choose Auschwitz or choose Sinai.[2] Rabbi Salkin paraphrased the essay this way:

“Auschwitz is what they did to us. Sinai is what we did for ourselves.”

Auschwitz, I think, promotes the narrative of servitude and helplessness, while Sinai signifies empowerment and freedom.

I see the choices of this narrative in the start of this week’s Torah portion. Here, we end the Book of Numbers by starting with a long recap of the forty-year journey of our nation from servitude to freedom. Forty-two place-names are listed as stopping points along the way from Egypt to the Promised Land, to remind us what a long, difficult and tumultuous trek we successfully completed.

 In a Torah commentary several years ago, Jane West Walsh and Cantor Gershon Silins noted that at least two of the places are not mentioned anywhere else in the Torah and we have no idea where they were. They were important places of rest at the time – but they are other otherwise forgotten.[3] So why keep them in the story?

Well, maybe it goes back to what my Grandmom Freda used to say so often: “Watch where you’re going, not where you’ve been.” That was especially important for me because I’m such a klutz and I definitely would have tripped over my own feet or something else right in front of me, had I not been paying attention.

But I’ve always taken that wisdom as a life’s lesson. We are shaped by our experience, and memory can be a gift. But we need to be moving ahead, without getting entangled and tripping up in what we’ve left behind.

To add to what Rabbi Hartman wrote, then, Rithmah and Rimmon-perez might be the ancient equivalent of Auschwitz. They were places where we were alone, endangered, and exposed to threats all around us. They were places we survived.

They are stages in a narrative of fear and vulnerability that we always carry with us. But: Between Auschwitz and Sinai, I’ll always choose the latter to define my life as a Jew, and what I understand as God’s plan for me and for all who are part of B’nai Yisrael, whether by birth or by choice. We can say “never forget” and mean it – without being defined by it or restrained by it.

The fact is that, in our Parashah, the list of the 42 encampments is merely a prelude to the preparation that Moses will give us in the entire book of Deuteronomy, so that we can fulfill our destiny in the Promised Land, the land of Israel. Our destiny, our empowerment and our peoplehood also are parts of the narrative we always carry with us.

Sinai is the past, the present, and the future of Israel and the Jewish people of the world. Sinai is our life and our destiny. Sinai is what we create, every day – in politics, medicine, education, entertainment. And yes, fundamentally in faith, and in the covenant – our partnership with God – that continues to shape our world.

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our mission here on earth, as we say together: Amen.

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©2022 Audrey R. Korotkin


[1] https://religionnews.com/2022/07/25/biden-israel-yad-va-shem-holocaust/

[2] https://www.hartman.org.il/auschwitz-or-sinai/

[3] https://reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/torah-commentary/lost-stories

“In A Galaxy Far, Far Away” – Shabbat Pinchas, Friday, July 15, 2022

Dazzling. Pulsing. Mind Boggling. Those are some of the phrases used this week to describe the brilliant images NASA has shared with us from the James Webb telescope. Traveling in an orbit a million miles from home, the telescope has awed us with its brilliance and clarity – showing entire galaxies we never saw before, never even knew they existed.

To me they had the feel of the immersive experience of the Van Gogh exhibit, with its three-dimensional atmosphere. Twinkling orange galaxies. Dying stars shedding gas and light. Black holes. (And I thought of this even before my friend Ann Millin posted a Facebook Meme in which someone actually had combined the two).

Up until now, the biggest and best view we had of space was from the Hubble Telescope, launched in 1990 – more than 30 years before the Webb Telescope went up. Looking at images of the same star clusters side by side, it’s like comparing a 1990s analog television or gaming console with the striking life-like, ultra-high-definition of today.

 While we were essentially seeing these breathtaking images in real-time, we were really looking at the past, because the further in the distance you look, the older the image is. What we see now existed long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away – by one account 4.6 billion years ago.

Science writer Shannon Stirone wrote in the New York Times this week of the overwhelming awesomeness of this gift from afar. “Viewing images like these,” she wrote, “can provide a profound sense of insignificance – they offer a sense of proportion and understanding of just how small we are on the grand scale.”[1]

In that same issue of the Times, graphics columnist Sergio Pecanha reflected: “If nothing else, the humongousness of the universe ought to put our problems into perspective. A little insignificance isn’t such a bad thing.”

A little perspective. A dollop of humility. These were thoughts reflected in much of what was written this week. Whether or not you believe that all of this was the materialization of what was in God’s mind, it’s worth considering it, in light of the stories we’re reading this summer in the Torah.

Take the story we began last week: the uber-zealotry of the Israelite priest Pinchas, who is so incensed when he sees Israelite men cavorting with Moabite women, and worshiping their gods, that he hauls off and chucks a spear clean through one of the couples, killing both of them.

On the face of it, it looks like God approves of the actions of Pinchas. But some rabbis commenting on these verses give us another perspective.

This violent act by Pinchas, they note, is tagged onto last week’s portion. The apparent divine reward does not appear until this week. And when it does, it’s an eternal covenant of peace. A covenant of peace for a zealot who took the law into his own hands? Well: That’s where the one-week pause comes in.

Pinchas, they say, is not rewarded in the moment. God makes him – and the whole camp — step back and maybe take some time to reflect. Yes, “Pinchas was zealous for My sake” – God says in the text. But the pause makes us think that God also recognizes: Whoa, we can’t have a whole camp acting this way! True peace cannot come through violence.

God’s reward to Pinchas the B’rit Shalom – the covenant of peace – points to a desire, a need, for reflection and humility. For a different path going forward.

We are reminded of that message of humility when we see these remarkable pictures from across space and time – so magnificent and pure. Yes, we should be proud of the phenomenal ability of human beings to bring us this great gift – what columnist David Von Drehle called a “marvel of engineering and audacity.” And yet, he concludes:

“Perhaps by gazing outward, we will be inspired to examine anew our own existence. Earth is so small and humanity so transient . . . The more we can see the scale of the universe . . . the smaller our part in it feels. Smaller, yet more precious. For the farther we see, the humbler we become, and the fruit of humility is gratitude.”[2]

I think maybe that’s exactly the message for us on this Shabbat. From our Torah, gratitude that God gives us precious time and space to re-orient ourselves on a path of peace, and with a spirit of generosity. From the Webb telescope, gratitude for the precious gifts of mind and body that God has implanted within us, that let us make the seemingly impossible happen every single day. These are gifts that are not to be taken for granted. They are gifts that can, and should, make life better on this small and seemingly insignificant little planet, even as we lift our eyes and try to take in the magnitude of what is around us.

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own mission. As we say together: Amen.

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©2022 Audrey R. Korotkin


[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/12/opinion/nasa-james-webb-space-telescope-awe.html.

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/12/james-webb-space-telescope-worth-billions-and-decades/

You Will Not Replace Us: Shabbat Bechukkotai, May 20, 2022

We cannot say we didn’t see it coming.

Charlottesville, Virginia, August, 2017: One woman dead in white nationalist riots. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October, 2018: Eleven Jews slaughtered during prayer at Tree of Life Synagogue. Christchurch, New Zealand, March, 2019: 51 Muslims killed at prayer at two separate mosques by a single gunman. Poway, California, April, 2019, : One woman murdered at a synagogue during Sabbath prayer. El Paso, Texas, August, 2019: 23 Hispanics killed at a Wal-Mart. And now Buffalo, New York, is in mourning for ten people gunned down at a neighborhood supermarket because they were Black.

Jews and Muslims at prayer. Black and Brown people out shopping. All the slaughters had one thing in common: All the alleged gunmen were white men with guns and grudges, who believe in a sick, twisted conspiracy theory called “The Great Replacement.” Here’s a simple explanation from the American Jewish Congress:

“The Great Replacement [is] also known as white replacement theory or white genocide theory. The conspiracy theory, rooted in white supremacist ideology, claims there is an intentional effort, led by Jews, to promote mass migration, intermarriage, and other efforts that would lead to the (quote) ‘extinction of whites.’.”[1]

The shooting suspect in Buffalo made mention of this in his manifesto, which blamed Jews for pushing out whites. So did all the rest. They were pushed and encouraged on line by manifestos full of rage about the supposed downfall of White Christian male domination – here in our country and around the world.

The more the demographic trends move in other directions, it seems, the more angry and desperate they get to stem the tide, one or two or ten or 23 or 51 people at a time.

Back in 2017, when news programs showed streams of young white men in geeky polo shirts marching with hatred blazing in their eyes, shouting “Jews will not replace us!” – back then, we saw this white supremacist movement as a fringe element. As Jews, we took it seriously – we always have to. But we thought it was limited to small groups being radicalized in secret, dark corners of the internet.

We missed one big sign. The sign, in Charlottesville, was that these hate-filled white men were no longer hiding behind masks or inside white robes. They didn’t care who saw them, who identified them. They had been released from the shackles of the darkness.

The mass murders that followed Charlottesville, tell this story. Manifestos by the killers are posted, shared and quoted openly. The Buffalo shooter copied the killer in New Zealand by proudly posting video of his bloody crime. The killers in Pittsburgh and in Poway – consumed by racial paranoia — wrote that their attacks would spark a long-smoldering revolution, a violent race war, awakening unsuspecting white people to the “fact” of their imminent demise unless they took up arms.

We also missed a second big sign from Charlottesville: the shrug, the wink, the nod, that people at the highest levels of our government gave to the racist violence. Again, we believed it was a handful of people. Powerful ones, to be sure, but limited. We were wrong about that. There are a lot more powerful people spewing variations of this hatred, some more overtly than others. And there are lot more Americans than we’d like to think, who believe it.

And we’re just now catching up to a third big shift: the toxic mixture of Christian nationalism, white replacement theory, and other conspiratorial belief systems like Q-Anon and long-refuted allegations of stolen elections. Author Katherine Stewart, who’s written recently on this dangerous and deadly confluence, describes it as “a reactionary, authoritarian ideology that centers its grievances on a narrative of lost national greatness . . . this mind-set always involves a narrative of unjust persecution at the hands of alien or ‘un-American’ groups.”[2]

Stewart says the targets may vary: gay people, non-white immigrants or Americans of color, religious minorities like Muslims or Jews, or that vague catch-all known as “secular elites.” Or, of course, all of the above.

That vagueness is well suited to the dog-whistles we now hear calling those who fall into this toxic morass – calls emanating from elected officials and “populist” media personalities. Some are true believers in “white makes right.” Others simply seek fame and fortune, higher office and high media visibility. Twitter followers. Loyal donors. Even those officials who are late to the “hate party” have learned how to stoke the hatred for personal gain and profit.

As Jews, we know where all this can lead. For millennia we have been the scapegoats who are bullied, exiled, murdered, slaughtered in numbers that were once unbelievable. It’s why we are quick to come to the aid and support of others now targeted by vicious and deadly hate, whatever their race or religion. It’s why we demand action from our government officials at all levels, to denounce the conspiracies and crack down on the violence.

We know that haters carry senseless grudges against “the other” – everyone and anyone who isn’t them. It’s why the echoes of “never again” always tug at our hearts and our guts – and require us to speak out against injustice always and everywhere.

When our Torah says “Tzedek, Tzedek tirdof” – justice, justice shall you pursue[3] – the rabbis take special note of the fact that the word for justice is said twice, a rare occurrence in the Bible, which uses terse language. One great Torah commentator, Nachmanides, teaches that’s because we cannot leave it to the judges or the justice system – we each have an obligation seek justice for all. Another sage, Abraham Ibn Ezra, teaches that it means you are obligated to pursue justice – whether it’s to your gain or not — to your last day on earth.

Sitting quietly is not an option. Not when we know where this toxic mix of baseless hatred, conspiracy theories, and beliefs in racial superiority lead. Too many lives have been lost already. Black and brown, Muslim and Jew. If each of us is, as Judaism teaches us, made in God’s image, and if no one’s blood is redder than another’s, then we cannot stand idly while our neighbors bleed. Hate has no home here. Hate must have no home anywhere.

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own. As we say together: Amen.

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©2022 Audrey R. Korotkin


[1] https://www.ajc.org/news/great-replacement-theory-heres-what-jews-need-to-know-about-white-supremacy

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/05/18/opinion/christian-nationalism-great-replacement.html?searchResultPosition=1

[3] Deut. 16:20.

Proclaim Liberty – Shabbat Behar May 13, 2022

As something of an Anglophile, I’ve been anticipating for months the Jubilee celebrations in early June that will celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the British throne. There will be the Trooping of the Colour (colour with a “u”) of course, as hundreds of soldiers put on a display for the monarch. There will be thousands of beacons (big torches, actually) lit across the country. A service of thanksgiving, of course, at St. Paul’s. And even the Derby at Epsom Downs is part of the celebratory weekend.

I’m sure it will be a great celebration for a woman who’s life has been dedicated to Crown and country. And a wonderful way for COVID-weary Brits to get back in touch with one another in a joyful way.

Elizabeth is the first British Monarch ever to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne – beating even Queen Victoria’s almost 64 years.

But the idea of a Jubilee as a once-in-a-lifetime event goes back to the Torah itself – even if it means something very different.

“You shall count off seven weeks of years – seven times seven years—so that the period of seven weeks of years gives you a total of forty-nine years,” says the Torah this week. “Then you shall sound the shofar loud . . . and you shall hallow the fiftieth year.” (Lev. 25:8-10)

The Jewish Jubilee – the Yovel — is a community celebration, too. But the word “Yovel” itself means “release.” And our Jubilee is just that. A permanent release from indentured servitude for those who have been enslaved to others because of financial debts. “Each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family,” the Torah says.

But it isn’t just people that get a release on the Yovel. The land gets a rest – no reaping or sowing. Everyone needs to be clever enough to plan ahead for that. Because, as God reminds us here, “the land is Mine; you are but strangers resident with me.” (Lev. 25:24).

The Yovel – the 50th year – is a reminder to us that everything and everyone are God’s. No human being can enslave another permanently. No person can claim another’s property for a debt permanently. No land can continue to be fruitful, without a time to be fallow, permanently. No community can profit from slave labor or seized property, permanently. It’s all designed to be once in a lifetime: No child shall ever be expected to incur the debts of his father. Each of us deserves to start our own lives with a clean slate – and make of ourselves everything we can without burdens imposed long before we were born.

The Yovel is a reminder to us that those burdens still haunt us in our own time, in our own country, in so many different ways. The burden of multi-generational poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse. The burden of continued destruction of our planet. The burden of low educational expectations that are self-fulfilling for children of color and children of migrants. The burden of fear, ignorance, bigotry and senseless hatred, transmitted from generation to generation around the dinner table. The burden of one religious group imposing its beliefs on others, with sometimes deadly consequences. The burden of rampant egotism and hunger for power that has left countries like Ukraine, Syria, and so many others devastated by brutal invasion.

It seems to me that the Yovel is a lot more than an old story about how we lived under God’s rule in ancient agricultural towns. It’s a blueprint – a divine directive, really – for the way we ought to be living today: free from oppression, as the prophet Micah expressed in declaring God’s will that “they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).

And so it is here, in the story of the Yovel, that the Torah proclaims, in the words etched onto the Liberty Bell by our own nation’s founders: “You shall proclaim liberty throughout the land, to all the inhabitants thereof” (Lev. 25:10).

Our lives ought to be filled with the kindness, and generosity of mind and spirit, with which our British neighbors celebrate the Platinum Jubilee: communities coming together in celebration, no matter the race or culture or faith of neighbors; people showing solidarity with each other and honor for the leaders who have earned their trust; opportunities for public thanksgiving and for public service.

The Jewish Jubilee is no longer formally celebrated – not since the Israelite people were scattered and the Second Temple destroyed – although by some calculations, we’re in the middle of a 50-year cycle now. But there’s no need to wait to get the party started.

Now is as good a time as any to recommit ourselves to tikkun, the healing of our world, so that that the next generation will never have to inherit the burdens we have created.

At the end of this week’s Torah portion, God commands:

אֶת־שַׁבְּתֹתַי תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּמִקְדָּשִׁי תִּירָאוּ אֲנִי יְהוָֹה:

You shall guard my sabbaths and venerate my sanctuary.” But we now understand that the whole world is God’s sanctuary, and every Sabbath is just a little taste of what the world could and should be. And it is up to each of us, in every generation, to fulfill that obligation.

Ken yehi ratson. Be this God’s will and our own mission here on earth. As we say together: Amen.

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©2022 Audrey R. Korotkin

“Bans Off Our Bodies, Bans Off Our Beliefs” – Rabbi Dr. Audrey Korotkin

Rally For Abortion Access, Harrisburg, May 14, 2022

In my home congregation, when my congregants gather on the Sabbath, I thank them for being present for themselves and for each other. Shabbat is meant to be shared by people creating sacred space and marking sacred time. Well, this is the Sabbath, and, this morning, you are my congregation, creating sacred space with your commitment to do justice and love your neighbor as yourself. Thank you for being here for yourselves and for each other – and for all of those who need your love and support now, more than ever.

I want to take you all back several years, to my very first congregational position, at a small town in rural Illinois. I was still a seminary student, just learning how to be the preacher, teacher, pastor and leader of a community of faith. I thought it would be routine – Sabbath services, an occasional bar mitzvah, adult learning, visiting the housebound.

And then, one of my congregants came to me in agony.

She was pregnant. It was a planned pregnancy, and she and her husband were overjoyed. And then, some months into her pregnancy, they discovered that the fetus had multiple abnormalities. It would likely not survive birth. It might not survive that long. And in the meantime, her health and well-being were in danger. They were devastated. They thought they had done everything right.

So they made the difficult, but necessary, decision for her to have an abortion. She came to me because she wanted assurance that Judaism – that her Jewish community and her rabbi – would support their decision and help them heal. The answer was an unequivocal yes.

Judaism believes in bodily autonomy. Judaism believes in the agency of women. And even the rabbis of old – who were by no means radical feminists – drew from our Scripture to codify abortion into Jewish law. Abortion is accepted in Jewish law and sometimes required to save the mother’s life. And a woman’s life is always of paramount importance, no matter how far the pregnancy has progressed.  

My congregant was relieved to know all of this, from a Jewish perspective. But I realized there was a second reason she needed the support of her congregational community. She was not getting that support from the medical community. In this small, rural town in Illinois, she was ostracized by doctors and nurses who allowed their own personal religious beliefs to get in the way of the medical care she needed and deserved. She had a safe abortion. And she had safe harbor in the arms of her congregation.

This was about 25 years ago, well after Roe v. Wade was established law, reinforced by the Casey decision. And yet her experience was much more traumatic than it ought to have been, because other peoples’ religious beliefs were infringing on her constitutional right to choose abortion.

A lot has changed in our country since then. But one thing has not. Politicians and judges are still trying to impose their personal religious beliefs on the rest of us. They are still trying to insert themselves into some of the most personal and fraught decisions we can make. And they are succeeding, state by state – and now, possibly, on a national level. Under the guise of law and justice, they are using their presumptions about fetal personhood that are rooted in their particular conservative, patriarchal notions of religion to limit, or revoke, our right to privacy and our right to agency, and our right to our own religious beliefs.

As a person of deep faith – and a faith leader – I am offended. I am disgusted. I am determined to stop them in their tracks.

We’re talking here today about saving Roe. But don’t forget this is happening right here in Pennsylvania on the state level. My own state senator, Judy Ward, is the lead sponsor of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would proclaim that “nothing in this Constitution grants or secures any right relating to abortion.” Their reasoning? Quote: “to protect the life of every unborn child from conception to birth.”

That is a religious belief – that personhood begins at conception, or fertilization. Senator Ward and others who are signing onto this are, of course, entitled to their personal religious belief. But they are not entitled to impose their religious belief on us. Senate Bill 956 is one of many such proposals that have been debated in this statehouse over the past few years. But it is the most pernicious, because they want, not just to codify their religious beliefs into law, but to insert them into the most basic document of personal freedoms that we have.

It’s similar to the damage that Justice Alito is trying to do to the U.S. Constitution. Substituting his personal religious beliefs for our personal freedoms. Misrepresenting history. Quoting medieval misogynists as reliable sources – one of whom actually changed the words of my Bible (his “Old Testament”), turning the text on its head, to justify his contention that abortion is murder.

I am not kidding about this. I mentioned earlier that Judaism draws from Scripture in its legal acceptance of abortion. Here’s what Exodus 21, verse 22 says, in the laws of injuries:

“When individuals fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined.” There’s no capital crime. There’s no killing. Scripture focuses on the injury done to the woman, and the compensation due her for that injury.

Ah but here’s what Henry de Bracton had to say in the 13th century, as quoted by Justice Alito in his draft ruling:

“If a person has struck a pregnant woman, or has given her poison, whereby he has caused an abortion, if the foetus be already formed and animated, he commits homicide.”

Did you see what they did there? It’s a good thing some of us know our Bible.

Now, Justice Alito neglects to acknowledge the original biblical source. But he does cite a medieval legal “authority” who actually altered the word of God! Honestly, anyone who will do that, is capable of anything.

So here’s the deal. Roe v. Wade is still the law of the land. Abortion is still legal in this country – despite the many roadblocks that have been erected to stop it. We have to protect abortion rights and abortion access nationwide and in our own backyard. It is imperative that my religious freedoms and my bodily autonomy – and yours and yours and yours – continue to be guaranteed across this nation.

So to those who are trying to take away our freedom and our rights I say:

Bans off our bodies. Bans off our beliefs.

And let us say: Amen.

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