I’ve internally debated whether I should or should not comment on the Pennsylvania State Attorney General’s scathing report on abuse within the Roman Catholic Church. I prayed that some Divine guidance might offer me the insight and wisdom to choose wisely, and then I finished my davening this morning by reading Psalm 82, the daily Psalm, and the answer was right in front of me:
“Champion the weak and the orphan; uphold the downtrodden and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; same them from the grip of the wicked.”
This is God’s command to those in positions of authority – their mission – and they failed miserably. Their failure impacts all religious life in the United States and abroad. How can someone turn to their God in time of need when the clergy who lead the worship are being questioned? Their stain is our stain too. How can our faith not be tested when so much evil has been done in the name of religion: wars; abuse; bigotry; hatred; vandalism; death. If all of the world’s religions are assumed to teach love and respect, then we have either corrupted those teachings, or we are going about it the wrong way.
Religion should encourage us to strive to be better human beings. How many people have lost their faith as a result of religion? As a Jewish clergyman, I know and appreciate all that is beautiful about Judaism, yet all of us can recall religious Jews guilty of a variety of crimes against society. Is the default mode of humanity evil?
God declares it to be so, for after the great flood caused by the lawlessness on earth, when Noah offers a sacrifice to God, we find the following: “The Lord smelled the pleasing odor, and the Lord said to Himself: ‘Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the devisings on man’s mind are evil from his youth…’” Talk about an indictment of humanity! God admits that we are inherently evil. Most good and decent people would probably disagree with this passage, but all you need to do is turn on the television to then seriously ask yourself: What if this is really true?
Being good is not necessarily automatic; each of us has to work at it daily. This time of year in the Jewish calendar primes us to carefully review who and what we are. As inherently imperfect creations of God, we can opt to become better versions of ourselves if we choose to do so. Noah was a righteous man in his era. What do you want to be known for in your era?