March 14 was an important day in America. It was a day when you and your peers led with your heart and soul and told the world that something needs to change. You heard the call to stand up and tell teachers, legislators, fellow Americans, and the President, that never again should kids feel threatened in their schools due to gun violence. Never again should weapons of war find their way into the hands of someone who cannot judge between right and wrong.
Judaism has always championed the courageous and those who choose to lead, whether by command or by instinct, with confidence or ambivalence, and your actions emulated that value.
The Torah offers a number of examples of the courageous who stood up on behalf of others. Abraham who followed the divine voice and led the people towards Canaan; Joseph who ultimately didn’t let his brothers’ treatment of him dictate his own actions; the mid-wives Shifra and Puah who knew that to kill innocents babies on decree of Pharoah was wrong; Moses who overcame his self consciousness to lead the people beyond Egypt; and the daughters of Zelophehad who took a risk to challenge unfair property rights.
By walking out of school, writing letters to our elected leaders, or remembering the 17 students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you followed the example of our ancestors. Like the opening word of this week’s Torah portion Vayikra – translated as “God called out” – were you willing to hear the voice inside of you, calling you to rise up and be seen, to answer the challenge of this moment to share what is vitally important to you and to our country.
Rabbi Tarfon teaches in Pirke Avot 2:21(Ethics of the Sages), that it is not up to us to finish the work – in this case of standing up for what you believe – but neither are you free to desist from it. May you continue to raise your voices and pray with your feet to bring about the change you wish to see and the future you so richly deserve.
I saw you.
I heard you.
I’m so proud of you.
Thank you for the courage of your convictions and your advocacy.
Thank you for answering the call of leadership
With thanks to Rabbi David-Seth Kirshner for the original inspiration for this letter.