Talmud this Shabbat: Can We Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time?


“Rabbi, why don’t you ever talk about this?”

Nowadays I get two genres of emails that start like that.

One sends me horrifying stories about the left: the Jew-hatred and Israel-bashing that come from progressive circles, e.g., Alexandria Ocasio Cortez backing out of an event to honor Yitzchak Rabin. Please see this important article by Bari Weiss here.

The other sends me horrifying stories about the right: voter suppression, voter intimidation, voter exclusion, the dying of our democracy. Please see this important article about Pennsylvania and the election here.

Both sides are 100% correct.

What Bari Weiss says is absolutely correct: anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing from the left must be named, called out, and resisted with all our heart, all our might, all our soul. The future of the Jewish people depends on this.

What the article says about voter suppression from the right is absolutely correct: voter suppression, voter intimidation, voter exclusion must be named, called out, and resisted with all our heart, all our might, all our soul. The future of American democracy depends on this.

Here is my question, as I shared last week in Talmud. Why does the same person never send me both articles? The people who send me the first never send me the second. The people who send me the second never send me the first.

Can we walk and chew gum at the same time? Can we resist anti-Semitism and the killing of our democracy by voter suppression at the same time?

On Shabbat we are going to explore a prayer that we always say and never think about: aleinu, which is all about the tension between particularism (I care about anti-Semitism) and universalism (I care about preserving our democracy). Aleinu has two paragraphs. They cut in very opposite directions. Can they be part of the same prayer? Can they be part of the same heart and soul (ours)? Here is the link to three different versions of this very complex prayer.

See you on Shabbat at 8:30. Gann Chapel Livestream

Shabbat shalom,
Wes