Why This Rabbi Went to the March for Science on Shabbat

Bloggers note:  I wrote this prior to going to the March for Science on April 22, 2017.  While the march is over, I believe the teaching here remains relevant in helping  to understand the relationship of Judaism to science and its deeper implications for the era of fake facts and willful ignorance that we seem to be entering.

Why I am Going to the March for Science and You Should Too

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Convener and Director of Panim Hadashot-New Faces

Friday, April 21, 2017

I am joining the March for Science tomorrow on my Sabbath day. Why am I going to this march instead of attending Shabbat morning services?

I am going as a human being who feels strongly that this march is the best expression of the value of Earth Day and the call to arms for the looming long-term danger of climate change.

I am going as an American citizen deeply alarmed about the intentional undermining of the role of scientific research and evidence in so many fields by the new administration.

I am going as a Jew because of the repudiation and manipulation of reality by our president and many of his enablers is an affront to Jewish teachings on wisdom and honesty. See Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Sages, Chapter 5, Mishnah 7 “There are seven things that characterize a golem (I will leave this Hebrew word untranslated).  , and seven that characterize a Hacham  (a wise person).

I am going as a rabbi because I believe that the deep and critical study of nature is a precondition for the study of Torah.  In this view, I follow my teacher, Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher and physician of the 12th century.  Maimonides  “allowed the authority of Jewish revelation (Torah)  to be severely constricted and even undermined in those areas where recent knowledge about the natural world appeared to challenge the wisdom of the rabbis (of the Talmud, 700-1200 years prior to Maimonides).”

Maimonides’ wrote in his classic work, The Guide for the Perplexed,

“Do not ask of me to show that everything they [the rabbis] have said concerning astronomical matters conforms to the way things really are. For at that time mathematics was imperfect. They did not speak about this as transmitters of dicta of the prophets, but rather because in those times they were sages of knowledge in these fields or because they had heard these dicta from the sages of knowledge who lived in those times.” LINK

A rabbi in our time also must also listen to the dicta from sages of knowledge who live in our time. Going beyond Maimonides we must admit that mathematics and other fields of science are never perfect and are evolving as our knowledge increases.  Maimonides lived before the development of modern scientific method, but I am certain his view would have embraced modern scientific method and would have sought its findings in all fields.

Sages of knowledge†in our day test their scientific theories among their peers and their findings are public and subject to experimental challenge  Denial of the efficacy of this method and of the findings it reveals, is one of the most invidious trends in our time now egged on by irresponsible government officials.

This denial and dismissal of the scientific knowledge must be opposed and challenged.

Why am I making an exception to my Shabbat practice of attending morning services and traveling to participate in the march?  I am following Heschel’s example of praying with my feet.  I also understand the Jewish Sabbath as a Zecher Lemaaseh Bereishit-a memorial to the act of creation.  By marching I am intentionally fulfilling one of the purposes of the Sabbath day.

When people with immense power endanger the natural world and undermine the habitability of the world we are dependent on, then it is a Kum V’aseh (Stand Up and Act) moment.  That is why I think that Jews who love the Sabbath should join me in attending the march.  500 marches are occurring not only in the US, but around the world. Let us Sing a Song of Shabbat and Sing a Song for the entire world.

 

Shabbat Shalom

 

 

 

“Will you annihilate the virtuous with the wicked?” 

And Abraham came forward and said (to YHWH).  “Will you annihilate the virtuous with the wicked?  Maybe there are fifty virtuous who are in it (the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah)?  Far be it from you to do a thing like this, to kill the virtuous with wicked–and it will be the same for the virtuous and the wicked-far be it from you. Will the judge of all the earth not do justice?” Genesis 18:23-25

Here is an excerpt from a story today in The New York Times about a family impacted by Trump’s ban.

Had all gone according to plan, after an overnight flight from Doha, Qatar, Hamidyah Al Saeedi, 65, would have landed at Kennedy Airport in New York on Saturday and then boarded a connecting flight to Raleigh, N.C., to meet her son Ali Alsaeedy, whom she had not seen in five years.

It was not by chance that her new life as an American immigrant would begin in North Carolina. Her son is a sergeant in the 82nd Airborne Division, which is based at Fort Bragg.

When she did not show up at the airport, Sgt. Alsaeedy’s immediate fear was that his mother, who does not speak English, had somehow gotten lost.

He flew to New York, where another reality awaited him. His mother was not lost: She was being held somewhere in Terminal 4 by authorities who were threatening to deport her. “They wouldn’t even let me see her,” Sgt. Alsaeedy, a newly minted American citizen, said by phone on Sunday morning from the airport, where he was still waiting for his mother.

A native of Baghdad, Sgt. Alsaeedy has been working for the American government for much of his life. After the 2003 invasion, he was an interpreter for seven years, working for the American military and the United States Agency for International Development. For his service, he eventually received a special immigrant visa and emigrated to the United States.

He joined the Army and returned to Iraq in 2015, this time as a United States soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division. “I cannot tell you what I was doing,” he said when asked about his role. All he would say was this: “The mission we were doing there, I was a part of it.”

For years, he had been filling out endless forms so that his mother and his father could join him in America. “I started the process five years ago to bring both parents to this country,” Sgt. Alsaeedy said.

In December, his father died. A few weeks later, his mother’s visa was approved. He immediately booked a flight for her. At the moment that the president signed the immigration order, at 4:42 p.m. in Washington on Friday, she was probably waiting to board her flight in Doha.

The ban issued by the president is arbitrary, sudden, and cruel.  I also believe it is counter to American interests and will not keep us safe from terrorism. 

As a Jew I am outraged by the President’s action.  Abraham’s “hagasha” coming forward to God, sets a precedent for us to come forward and protest this cruel order.  As an American and a descendent of immigrants I find this action reprehensible and contrary to the powerful words expressed by another Jew that are engraved on the Statue of Liberty.  

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Yesterday, I spoke with my adult children who are fighting despair over the reckless acts of this new administration.  We had an extended discussion on what these times will demand of us and ultimately, what the God of Abraham demands of us.  It is time “l’hagish” to come forward to protest and to work together with others to reverse these evil decrees. 

I hope you will join with me. 

Please share my words with others who may take them to heart, and please share with me  your thoughts about what the present moment demands at dov@panimhadashot or in the comment section to the Panim Hadashot Blog at www.panimhadashot.org. 

Rabbi Dov Gartenberg

Panim Hadashot-New Faces

Monday, January 30, 2017