By Rabbi Mark Borovitz
Last night, as we were getting ready to go to the White House for our first time and celebrate Hanukkah, we watched the news and found out that Nelson Mandela had died. It was/is a somber moment and, yet, not unexpected. Then this morning, on Facebook, I read a post by a friend (who I actually know!!) that appeared in the New York Times Opinionator, about a man who stole an extra day with his Dad. Death seems to be calling to me and yet, I was honored to attend the White House Hanukkah Party as the guest of Harriet Rossetto and see the miracles and talks of change that are possible! Very confusing...Maybe not.
As I think of how young I was and feeling cheated by my father's death at such an early age, I realized how he is still with me and guiding me. I am just returning home from a trip that started in Florida where I saw my almost 102 year old Mother-in-Law and helped her with doctor’s appointments etc. I realized how much my wife, Harriet, appreciates her mother's presence. This past September, my family gathered to celebrate my niece's wedding, we brought along all those who have passed to the next world as well.
Nelson Mandela does not die, unless we kill his ideas and ideals. Nelson Mandela has to be an influence in our daily actions, otherwise he is meaningless to us. So too, do all of our ancestors and heroes have to be the influence that moves us to change; be it JFK, MLK Jr., RFK, David Ben-Gurion, Yitzhak Rabin, Judah Maccabee, Sgt. York, my father, my mother who has lived a life of decency and goodness, my brothers and sister, your parents, siblings, teachers, etc.
We all will mourn and give great oratory to the lives of great leaders and people we know or read about, yet I ask, “So What?” President Obama, fix the system! Not by rhetoric, by getting your hands dirty, that's what Mandela and all heroes do. Mr. Beohner, fix the system through compromise and the spirit of cooperation, that's what Ronald Reagan did!
To myself and the rest of us, we must fix our lives through fighting for what we believe in and never becoming what we are fighting against. Let our ideals lead us and let our heroes lead us. Let Nelson Mandela and our ancestors, who were all immigrants, remind us that divide and conquer, while good in a war, only diminishes us in peace and in being able to live together. Let Judah Maccabee carry the torch that says all is possible as long as God-Image and Taking care of the poor the widow, the stranger and the orphan are carried out by us in God's name. Let all of us, Re-Hanukkah (rededicate) ourselves and our communities to these principles: Justice, Truth, Love, Compassion and Welcoming. I was welcomed at the White House last night, me: an ex-con, recovering alcoholic so I have to welcome everyone who is committed to God's world and committed to living their authentic life and those that aren't here yet, I have to welcome them and help them.
No one can do this alone, not even God! That's why Humans are a Divine Need, as I understand Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. I ask for your help for Beit T’Shuvah to continue to welcome all regardless of money, I ask your help to get Republicans and Democrats to work together, I ask your help to care for the widow, poor, orphan and stranger in your neighborhood and inside your family and inside of you. God Bless the soul of Nelson Mandela, the souls of all our departed and the souls of all of us through our deeds.