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Jackie Robinson & Labelism!

Friday, 10 January, 2020 - 8:17 am

There are many societal norms that are good; but some are really bad, including the lumping together of people, thinking that if they live in “that neighborhood” or “drive that car” or “watch that news station”, they are probably “one of those”. It’s a travesty, that instead of giving each human being individualized respect, personalized attention and a chance to share for themselves where they stand on issues, we “assume”, “generalize” and “judge”, without ever knowing the truth of who they are.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, the last in Genesis, we read about Jacob’s deathbed conversation with his twelve tribes before his passing at one-hundred-and-forty-seven years-old. First, Jacob ascertains that they have all remained firm believers in one G-d and that the depraved Egyptian influence hasn’t affected them negatively, encroaching on their spirituality. Following that, Jacob talks to each of them individually, blessing them, highlighting their virtues and, for some, emphasizing their negative traits, which if worked on with a healthy dose of character refinement, can be transformed into very positive passion. He didn’t just say “guys, you are all special, all good, and I hope you carry my legacy into the future”. He knew, what we should all know, that every child, every human, needs a special touch.

I find that with labelism we have lost touch with the uniqueness of each human. You are “progressive”, “Reform”, “Religious”, “Modern Orthodox”, “Secular” “Hassidic”, “Libertarian” and on and on and on. Not only do we not give people the benefit of the doubt, we don’t even allow them to be themselves, as we reach conclusions about them by generalizing before even saying hello. Why is it that we expect people to treat us with dignity, while we ourselves can’t recognize human distinctiveness and come with an open mind to each human interaction? Jacob did it with his children; I hope I can do it with mine and with all of you.

In the words of Jackie Robinson “I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”!

May You guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May You protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!! 

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