Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Eulogy for Lila Sosna written and delivered by David Baum

Eulogy for Lila Sosna

As I was reading this week’s parashah, there was a pasuk that really stuck with me as I thought about Lila’s life. 

Deuteronomy 4:9 But take utmost care and watch yourselves scrupulously, so that you do not forget the things that you saw with your own eyes and so that they do not fade from your mind as long as you live. And make them known to your children and to your children’s children. 

We have a very special religion and story.  In our parashah this week, we read the famous Ten Commandments, in it, the commandment to honor your father and your mother, but there is no mitzvah to honor your children – why?  Because it comes second nature to us, it is as instinctual to most of us as it is to breathe.  But we do have this commandment, among many others regarding our children:  make these teachings known to your children, and to your children’s children.  You see, it’s not just about the children, but also about the grandchildren.  There’s an old joke, what do grandparents and grandkids have in common:  they share a common enemy.  But, The Talmud tell us something interesting about this special relationship when it commented on this quote from Dvarim, “When a child is taught by a grandparent, it is as if that child received it at Sinai.”  In other words, when we teach our grandchildren, it is a divine act and it’s not easy.  It takes being involved and being present when you’ve already been there and done that.  And Lila taught us all.

So today, I would like to speak about a woman who excelled in this great mitzvah, of teaching through example and making a great impact upon our family. 

Born in Brooklyn, but she was raised in the Bronx.  Her parents, Harry and Eva, had two girls, Arlene and Lila.  Arlene always called her Bunny – because when she was young, she used to hop around like a bunny. 

She met her late husband Jerry when she was a hostess at an Air Force dance (Jerry was in the airforce).  Were together for a couple of years until they were married in 1953, had their son Larry in 1955, their daughter Marcia in 1959, and Mark in 1963. 

Raised their family in Farmingdale.  A lot of weekends they would travel to the Bronx to visit their mother’s family. Had almost an annual ritual, they would pack up their car, and drive to St. Louis to visit “the cousins”, Jerry’s family, they would Mark in the middle so they could take turns punching him. 

She was a working mom, working as a legal secretary full time. 

Unfortunately, Jerry and Lila were divorced after two of their children moved out and got married.  It wasn’t a contentious split, it was like they grew apart after Jerry traveled around for work, but the funny thing was, they grew closer the more they were apart.  Lila nursed Jerry back to health after his liver transplant. 

They did not grow up affluent, her father Harry was a hard worker, working many hours for little pay, her mother did not work and raised her two daughters.  She had an amazing life long friendship with her sister Arlene, growing up together, spending time with her on cruises, and helping Arlene and her husband Mickey when they lost their son Howard right after our wedding.  She loved to go on cruises with her family and friends and she loved life. 

So here is a taste into Lila’s story, and I think it’s important to know it, but there is much Torah in the way she lived her life.  Our tradition teaches us that we must be like walking Torah scrolls; it’s not enough for us to learn Torah, we have to act it out in the world – which is why one of the first blessings we say in the morning is, L’asok b’divrei torah – busying ourselves with Torah. 

Here is how Lila’s inspired me.

I spoke about how she helped her sister and brother in law through the loss of their son, but this was just a taste of her love of family. 

In our tradition, in the book of Proverbs, we read a line, “Ateret z’kenim b’nei banim, ottiferet banim avotam” “Children and grand-children are the crown of the elders and the glory of their children is their parents.” 

Lila had a love of family, and she really opened up that concept to even relatives of relatives.

She went to each family event, the good ones, and the difficult ones.  She traveled to St. Louis, Chicago, Tampa, Denver, for births, bar mitzvahs, weddings, and of course, funerals. 

Anyone who was remotely related to Lila received a card on his or her birthday.  She would send cards to everyone – giving everyone a check for $10 - $15; it was consistent, she didn’t adjust for inflation, but she had to stretch it out because she would send $10 to everyone, even if they were barely related.  She didn’t adjust for inflation, and I figured out why:  she had more people, and more checks, to send as her circle of family and friends grew in life. 

She loved her great-grandchildren, she would talk about Avi and Harrison during every conversation with Mark.  She would come up to see her boys almost every Sunday, and she adopted our family (the Baum family), talking about Richie and Julie’s baby with her son Mark. 

I was more of a grandson than a rabbi, and she was grateful for my family, and how she was included.  I feel happy know that we could be the big loud family that she didn’t have growing up, and she found that family connection with us. 

Making a family, and making yourself a part of a family is something that people shy away from, but it makes such a big difference. 

Lila did a lot of volunteering; which are ma’asim tovim, good deeds.  She
Started working for the head start program (at risk kids), then after she retired she volunteered, library, senior center, home visits for elderly home bound.  Even until recently she was visiting senior homes because she did not want these people to feel lonely.  Can you think of a greater thing that one human being can do for another!  That’s living Torah. 

Lila had a passion for Beth Ahm Israel, in the sisterhood, her involvement in Hazak, the USY for those +55; she went to shul almost every Shabbat in Florida, finding God when she moved to down here.  She was moved by how active her granddaughters were at the shul and she believed in the Jewish future.

She loved to keep busy, always active, loved to read – would read books after books, mainly because she was an insomniac, loved Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy,
She was the floor captain of the condo, handing out flyers and the doors. 

Her involvement in the synagogue, her active lifestyle which was so different than her youth teaches us a lesson – it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and take on new challenges.  She was married for 30 years, and yet she found fulfillment in single life as a part of larger communities.  Pirkei Avot teaches us, “Al Tifrosh Min HaTzibur” “Don’t separate yourselves from the community…”  How many people who moved here from up north say, “I’m not going to join a shul or be involved; I did that up north already.”  But Lila realized that life is nothing if you are separated from the community. 

Lila was a picture of health, never went to the hospital, she took care of herself, worked out, ate right, went to the gym, kept active, even last week, she said that she needed to eat better, because she had a bit of a sweet tooth, but it was really a freak thing that happened. 

Before I finish, I did want to share some lighter moments. 
I didn’t realize this, but according to her son Mark – she was the inventor of Twitter and Facebook status updates!  She would call her kids after everything she did, this is what I ate for breakfast, this is what I bought from the store, how much she spent at the store; what she did during the day, what she cooked, even in the hospital, she told her daughter what she ate, if it was good or not, meals were big events for her. 

Humming, she would drive her son in law crazy with humming!  She loved to hum and loved music, big band music from her youth, and I have to admit, I enjoy humming as well.  It's the one legacy that Lila had that my wife doesn't want me to carry on!  

The hardest part is going to be not having those moments; even if they were mundane.  In Judaism, we are told to cherish every moment, even the mundane moments, because within the mundane, we can find holiness. 
That is what Judaism is all about, making the mundane holy. 

We have to hold on to these memories – the Torah she taught us both through her holy acts of involvement in the Jewish community, commitment to family and ma’asim tovim; but also the mundane things that make a big difference, the phone calls, the humming – that’s holy too! 

Lila was independent until the end, and was sharp and healthy, in fact, I don’t remember her not being strong. 


In the last week, when she was in her sharp decline, she told the nurse that she didn’t want to be dependent upon her family, and she showed the nurse pictures of her great grandchildren.  She said, I just want to go to sleep.  And so, Lila sleeps, taken from us too soon; but we will remember her as long as we live, not only her children, but her grandchildren, her great grandchildren, and everyone else she influenced. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Shabbat Nachamu - Finding Comfort Through The Rock

It was a difficult week for our family as we lost Alissa's grandmother, Lila Sosna.  It was a very sudden loss for us, and she was very special to our whole family.  I will post her eulogy on this blog later this week.  Although she lived a long and fruitful life, she was taken far too soon.  Our whole family has been blown away by the support and comfort given from so many including family, friends, and congregations, mainly Beth Ahm Israel of Cooper City where Lila was a very active member, and Congregation Shaarei Kodesh where our family, including Lila's daughter and son in law (my in-laws), are active members.

After the funeral, on my way back to the car, I saw a bench with the last name Agler, and I took a seat on it to have some moments to myself, and this is what I saw:



I was blown away by the number and variety of stones.  In Judaism, rather than leave flowers, we leave stones when we visit a someone's kever (grave).  Flowers wither, but rocks are forever.  I was blown away by the variety of rocks representing all those who have visited over time.  Each one different, and from different places; representing the number of people that loved Talia.

Interestingly enough, one of the many names for God in Judaism is Tzur Israel and Tzur Olamim, the rock of Israel, and the everlasting rock.  Rocks give us a foundation during times of turmoil which is how we feel when we lose someone.  I sat on the bench and spoke to Talia, the daughter or Rabbi Richard and Mindy Agler who was tragically taken at a young age.  I talked about how much she has taught me, and how much I admired what she did in her short life.  She truly left a lasting legacy.  To read more about Talia and the ma'asim tovim she performed in her life, I urge you to visit Rabbi Richard Agler's Blog:  http://rabbiagler.net/talia-agler-zl/

It gave me a little happiness knowing that our congregation helped Richard and Mindy during their unimaginable grief as they prayed with us on Shabbat mornings.

We are in a very interesting time in the calendar.  We are moving on from Tisha B'Av (the 9th of Av), a holiday commemorating the destruction of the Temples, the murder of millions of Jews throughout history, as well as our expulsions from various lands throughout time.  How did we make it through this these tragic events?!?  It seems almost unimaginable, but we did, and we are still here.  We are about to enter into Shabbat Nachamu, named after the Haftarah read tomorrow morning at kehillot (communities) around the world.  The first line of the Haftarah, from the book of Isaiah, "Comfort, oh comfort My people, Says your God..."  We get through difficult times because our communities comfort each other.  This is why shiva is such a beautiful ritual.  Friends, family, and community members who may not know those lost or even the mourners come to engage in the holy ritual of comforting others.

Eventually, we get up from shiva and mourning.  It comes in stages, but we take the lessons learned, and memories of those lost, and we become happy again.  This Monday, July 22nd, is a little know holiday called Tu Be'Av, the 15th of Av.  Here is what the Mishnah tells us about this day:

"There were no better (i.e. happier) days for the people of Israel than the Fifteenth of Av and Yom Kippur, since on these days the daughters of Israel/Jerusalem go out dressed in white and dance in the vineyards. What were they saying: Young man, consider whom you choose (to be your wife)?"(Ta'anit, Chapter 4).

It is our version of Valentine's Day, when we began to create out of the depths of despair.  This is the beauty of Judaism - being able to fully embrace the sadness of loss, and the shear joy of happiness and love.  Life needs both the bitter and the sweet to be authentic.

On this Shabbat, I wish for you comfort and healing, and in the weeks ahead, I wish for you all, love, friendship, and happiness.  May God continue to be a rock for us in difficult times, and may God help us get up to find love once again.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi David Baum

To learn more about Tu B'Av, please visit:  http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Modern_Holidays/Tu_BAv.shtml




Monday, July 15, 2013

A Time to Cry and a Time to Mourn - Tisha B'av 2013/5773

At our board retreat yesterday, we had the task of choosing a couple of words that articulate what we do as a congregation and will continue to do at all times.  One of the words that came up a lot was fun.  Our congregation loves to have fun at almost all times, but I told the group that 'fun' cannot be part of our vision because we cannot have fun ALL the time.   Put simply:  it's just not Jewish.  In the next hour or so, we will enter into one of those rare times.  

At a shiva home, visitors often do not know what to say to the mourner's.  Sometimes, people try and make sense of loss to the mourner's and sometimes they try and cheer them up because they do not want them to feel sadness.  The Shulchan Aruch tells us something different - when you approach a mourner, stay silent; let them do the talking, and your task is to listen to them.  However,  if you must say something, say the words, "HaMakom Yinachem Etchem B'toch Avelei Tzion U'Yerushalayim" "May God comfort you along with the mourner's of Zion and Jerusalem."  The phrase is interesting as it connects all mourners to the greatest tragedy that has befallen our people:  the loss of our Holy Temple and eventual the end of our independence in the land of Israel.  

On this holiday, we acknowledge that not all parts of life are 'fun'.  As the book of Ecclesiastes famously says, "There is a season that is set for everything, a time for every experience under the sun....a time to cry and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance..."  Now is the time to cry and to mourn.  To mourn the loss of our Temple, the loss of a system of worship, the loss of millions of Jewish souls killed for being born Jews spanning various periods:  from the time of the Temples; the Crusades; the expulsions; the pogroms; the Shoah; and bombings and attacks in our modern day period.   Today, the whole Jewish people will sit 'Shiva' for 25 hours.  It is a time for all us to embrace sadness and mourning because sometimes we must in order to truly experience simcha/joy.  I wish you all have a fast that will help you live in sadness for these brief moments.  May we never experience the pain and loss that our ancestors experienced, but more than that, may we never forget their sacrifices for us.  

Rabbi David Baum



Sunday, July 7, 2013

When Reality Television Gets Too Real

When Reality Television Gets Too Real
Parashat Matot-Masei, July 5th, 2013
By Rabbi David Baum

I returned home on July 4th as I completed my four day trip to Camp Ramah Darom.  Camp Ramah is located in the mountains of North Georgia, a place with practically no cell phone reception, very limited wifi and no television, and you know what, I loved it!  

Being "disconnected" from technology at camp was amazing, and just yesterday, I had a dvar torah that I wrote about this very subject; but that's not what this dvar torah is about.  Sometimes, we are just moved by something we see, that we may have grown accustomed to, but finally, we've had enough.    

I actually want to talk about television and racism; I know, how did I get from camp to racism?  Hear me out.  

When I arrived at home yesterday, I reconnected with the family, saw some fire works, and after everyone went to bed, I turned on the television to catch up on shows stored in my DVR, and the reality television show, Big Brother, was first on my list.  Big Brother is a reality television show with the following premise:  there is a group of people that are housemates living together in a large house. During their time in the house they are totally isolated from the outside world and contestants are continuously monitored by in-house television cameras as well as personal audio microphones during their stay.  Every single interaction and statement made is recorded for the world to see, but the television show is slickly edited by CBS to show what they want the public to see.  However, for a fee, you can watch a live feed anytime you want, so there are websites that constantly monitor the houseguests, often times posting spoilers online.  

After the show, I have to admit, I searched for spoilers, but instead of finding the usual harmless drama of the show, I found this: 

Big Brother house guests spouting racist and homophobic comments:

http://t.today.com/entertainment/big-brother-rocked-big-controversy-racism-sexism-homophobia-6C10523010

For the first time ever, Big Brother got REAL.  

I woke up on Friday morning very tired because I stayed up late on Thursday evening not because I was watching television, or because the kids woke up throughout the night.  I couldn't sleep because I was angry.  

I thought about myself in the house – What would they say about me, a Jew, a rabbi, if I were there. Would I have anti Semitic comments being thrown at me behind my back?  Some houseguests used the "N" word regarding the African American houseguests, and use the "F" word regarding one of the gay houseguests, they can surely say call me the "k" word, or throw pennies at me.       

No one is perfect, and I for one am glad that a television camera wasn't following me around in my late teens to record every one of my comments, but these people know they are being taped!  What does this say about them?  

But on the other side, what would I have done had I been listening to those comments?  Would I have remained silent or would I have said something?  Saying something would put me in an awkward position, it would make me a target.  Would I risk a shot at $500,000 to do the right thing?  Would you?  Think about it.  

I am sure that you have been in similar situations in your own lives.  What if your boss makes a racist comment?  Do you say something even though it might cost you your job?  

Interestingly enough, the contestants on Big Brother cannot watch television, movies, or read books, except for one book:  The Bible.

So if I were standing in front of the contestants, I would ask them to open to our parashah, Numbers, Chapter 30:3, “We are instructed to “do according to all that proceeds out of [our] mouth” (Numbers 30:3).  For the rest of this chapter 30, we read about the power of the vow, which is actually the power of words.  The power of words in our tradition should not come as a surprise – God created the world through speech, and we in turn do the same, but we can also destroy with words.  We can make contracts, and we can break them, we can begin relationships, and we can end them, and we do it all with words.  Words are like magic, in fact, the term, AbraCadabra is Aramaic for “I create (A’bra) what (ca) I speak (dab’ra).”

Words plant seeds in our brains that eventually lead us to take action, for better or for worse.  It's not just Jewish though, it's human.  There is a common saying, “A man is only as good as his word,” and this is what this chapter is all about.  

In this chapter, we read about a case of when vows can be nullified, in the case of a woman.  The chapter teaches us that a woman's vow can be nullified by her father or husband if he cancels her vow immediately upon hearing it.  I found this text troubling – why should a man have this power over his wife?  But the text goes on, “5and her father learns of her vow or her self-imposed obligation and offers no objection (v'hichrish), all her vows shall stand and every self-imposed obligation shall stand.”  The literal translation for the word, v'hichrish, is silence, literally, he was silent about her.  The rest of the chapter repeats this line a number of times regarding her husband.  

The Talmud picks up on these words and it conveys an important Jewish value:  silence is like assent.  The text is very clear, the husband must cancel his wife's vow immediately, he cannot wait, because if he waits, he becomes a participant in the oath.  

Hateful and racist comments, even if they might be .01% of the speech we say in a day, make a difference; and even if we don't say them, we cannot be silent, even if you yourself are a saint.  The Maharal of Prague once wrote, “While a person may be individually pious, such good will pale in the face of the sin of not protesting against an emerging communal evil.  Not only will such piety not avert the impending evil, but such a pious person will be accountable for having been able to prevent it and not doing so.”  

When I was on vacation, Paula Deen went from queen of the food world to unemployed and untouchable because of racist comments she made years ago.  Immediately upon hearing these statements, the sponsors dropped her because remaining silent would give the message that they agree with these words.  

I read these articles about Big Brother on July 4th, and the Big Brother House is a metaphor for our country.  One can see how difficult it is to build a country and keep it together with its great diversity.  White, Black, Asian, Latino, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, LGBT, straight, and the list goes on.  It teaches me that we still have a long way to go, but despite what some say behind closed doors, or out in the open, we are a work in progress.  Racism didn't end when Barack Obama was elected president, it remains with us, like an incurable virus.  

I am deeply offended, and now, I am watching Big Brother not for the harmless drama, but to see how CBS will handle this blatant and disgusting racism. 

I don't know if kicking the contestants off is the right answer.  Should we hide the things that deep down we are embarrassed about?  Exposing these comments can give the public an opportunity to do some of their own Heshbon hanefesh, and it's coming at the perfect time.  Racism is the ultimate sinat chinam, causeless hatred, the cause of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple)  Perhaps the best consequence should be that the contestants watch the show together to see how their comments hurt their fellow housemates who are their fellow countrymen.  Maybe then they would be moved to do tesuvah (repentance)?  

And so I come return to America.  July 1-3rd is also another anniversary- 150 years since the battle at Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War, a war where millions of Americans went to war with each other, brother killing brother with close to 700,00 Americans losing their lives, and I believe that the issue they fought over was really about slavery and the future of our nation.  One people viewed those with black skin as less than human (how else could they justify slavery?), and the other side viewed people of different skin as human beings.  We can see this from President Abraham Lincoln's famous speech on the hallowed and blood soaked ground in Gettysburg, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  A human being is a human being, no matter the skin color.  

In a very real way, our country prevented the destruction of its proverbial Temple when the Confederacy was defeated and slavery finally abolished.  The Republic was saved, and the states remained united.  

It makes me appreciate being in this country, a country that fought this battle for the humanity of one race, and strives to find dignity and beauty in diversity.

President Lincoln not only challenged those listening at Gettysburg, but all Americans, for all time.  

His words, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

There is a poll going to see what views want - So far 43% of over 25,000, the majority, want 
Keep the contestants, but air the comments so viewers know what the players are really like. 

Maybe a dose of reality is what we really need to challenge us to rise in the face of hate, to help us realize that what President Lincoln challenged us 150 years ago, and our the Torah and our rabbis thousands of years ago, because the consequence is the survival of our very nation.  As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

This challenge makes every generation vital to the future of our great country – to ensure that all men and women remain equal, that we stop using the word tolerance and start using the word acceptance, because humans shouldn't be tolerated, but they should be loved, sanctified, and accepted for the beautiful creations that they are.    

For the first time ever, Big Brother got REAL.  

I woke up on Friday morning very tired because I stayed up late on Thursday evening not because I was watching television, or because the kids woke up throughout the night.  I couldn't sleep because I was angry.  

I thought about myself in the house – What would they say about me, a Jew, a rabbi, if I were there. Would I have anti Semitic comments being thrown at me behind my back?  Some houseguests used the "N" word regarding the African American houseguests, and use the "F" word regarding one of the gay houseguests, they can surely say call me the "k" word, or throw pennies at me.       

No one is perfect, and I for one am glad that a television camera wasn't following me around in my late teens to record every one of my comments, but these people know they are being taped!  What does this say about them?  

But on the other side, what would I have done had I been listening to those comments?  Would I have remained silent or would I have said something?  Saying something would put me in an awkward position, it would make me a target.  Would I risk a shot at $500,000 to do the right thing?  Would you?  Think about it.  

I am sure that you have been in similar situations in your own lives.  What if your boss makes a racist comment?  Do you say something even though it might cost you your job?  

Interestingly enough, the contestants on Big Brother cannot watch television, movies, or read books, except for one book:  The Bible.

So if I were standing in front of the contestants, I would ask them to open to our parashah, Numbers, Chapter 30:3, “We are instructed to “do according to all that proceeds out of [our] mouth” (Numbers 30:3).  For the rest of this chapter 30, we read about the power of the vow, which is actually the power of words.  The power of words in our tradition should not come as a surprise – God created the world through speech, and we in turn do the same, but we can also destroy with words.  We can make contracts, and we can break them, we can begin relationships, and we can end them, and we do it all with words.  Words are like magic, in fact, the term, AbraCadabra is Aramaic for “I create (A’bra) what (ca) I speak (dab’ra).”

Words plant seeds in our brains that eventually lead us to take action, for better or for worse.  It's not just Jewish though, it's human.  There is a common saying, “A man is only as good as his word,” and this is what this chapter is all about.  

In this chapter, we read about a case of when vows can be nullified, in the case of a woman.  The chapter teaches us that a woman's vow can be nullified by her father or husband if he cancels her vow immediately upon hearing it.  I found this text troubling – why should a man have this power over his wife?  But the text goes on, “5and her father learns of her vow or her self-imposed obligation and offers no objection (v'hichrish), all her vows shall stand and every self-imposed obligation shall stand.”  The literal translation for the word, v'hichrish, is silence, literally, he was silent about her.  The rest of the chapter repeats this line a number of times regarding her husband.  

The Talmud picks up on these words and it conveys an important Jewish value:  silence is like assent.  The text is very clear, the husband must cancel his wife's vow immediately, he cannot wait, because if he waits, he becomes a participant in the oath.  

Hateful and racist comments, even if they might be .01% of the speech we say in a day, make a difference; and even if we don't say them, we cannot be silent, even if you yourself are a saint.  The Maharal of Prague once wrote, “While a person may be individually pious, such good will pale in the face of the sin of not protesting against an emerging communal evil.  Not only will such piety not avert the impending evil, but such a pious person will be accountable for having been able to prevent it and not doing so.”  

When I was on vacation, Paula Deen went from queen of the food world to unemployed and untouchable because of racist comments she made years ago.  Immediately upon hearing these statements, the sponsors dropped her because remaining silent would give the message that they agree with these words.  

I read these articles about Big Brother on July 4th, and the Big Brother House is a metaphor for our country.  One can see how difficult it is to build a country and keep it together with its great diversity.  White, Black, Asian, Latino, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, LGBT, straight, and the list goes on.  It teaches me that we still have a long way to go, but despite what some say behind closed doors, or out in the open, we are a work in progress.  Racism didn't end when Barack Obama was elected president, it remains with us, like an incurable virus.  

I am deeply offended, and now, I am watching Big Brother not for the harmless drama, but to see how CBS will handle this blatant and disgusting racism. 

I don't know if kicking the contestants off is the right answer.  Should we hide the things that deep down we are embarrassed about?  Exposing these comments can give the public an opportunity to do some of their own Heshbon hanefesh, and it's coming at the perfect time.  Racism is the ultimate sinat chinam, causeless hatred, the cause of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Holy Temple)  Perhaps the best consequence should be that the contestants watch the show together to see how their comments hurt their fellow housemates who are their fellow countrymen.  Maybe then they would be moved to do tesuvah (repentance)?  

And so I come return to America.  July 1-3rd is also another anniversary- 150 years since the battle at Gettysburg, the turning point of the American Civil War, a war where millions of Americans went to war with each other, brother killing brother with close to 700,00 Americans losing their lives, and I believe that the issue they fought over was really about slavery and the future of our nation.  One people viewed those with black skin as less than human (how else could they justify slavery?), and the other side viewed people of different skin as human beings.  We can see this from President Abraham Lincoln's famous speech on the hallowed and blood soaked ground in Gettysburg, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”  A human being is a human being, no matter the skin color.  

In a very real way, our country prevented the destruction of its proverbial Temple when the Confederacy was defeated and slavery finally abolished.  The Republic was saved, and the states remained united.  

It makes me appreciate being in this country, a country that fought this battle for the humanity of one race, and strives to find dignity and beauty in diversity.

President Lincoln not only challenged those listening at Gettysburg, but all Americans, for all time.  

His words, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

There is a poll going to see what views want - So far 43% of over 25,000, the majority, want 
Keep the contestants, but air the comments so viewers know what the players are really like. 

Maybe a dose of reality is what we really need to challenge us to rise in the face of hate, to help us realize that what President Lincoln challenged us 150 years ago, and our the Torah and our rabbis thousands of years ago, because the consequence is the survival of our very nation.  As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel famously said, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”

This challenge makes every generation vital to the future of our great country – to ensure that all men and women remain equal, that we stop using the word tolerance and start using the word acceptance, because humans shouldn't be tolerated, but we should be loved, sanctified, and accepted for the beautiful creations that we are.