Shabbat Parashat Chukat Juneteenth, Father’s Day and Us

Dear Friends,

What do we take to heart from the vast expanse of the Jewish history and of the American history that we study? What do we choose to raise up to the level of a celebration? How do we learn from and celebrate both people and events even when we are aware that they may not have been perfectly reflective of the achievement of our highest goals and ideals?

Today, Juneteenth becomes a national holiday. Recognition of the importance of this day comes along with the realization that there is more work to be done to achieve the freedom and equality that was envisioned in those who celebrated it for the first time in 1865. Yet, today, we celebrate!

Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day. We don’t wait to celebrate this day until all fathers collectively and individually embody the ideal that Father’s Day represents. We celebrate the ideal, and we celebrate the individuals, even though some may have passed away and some may still be less than “perfect.” Yet, this weekend, we celebrate!

We can learn a lot about all of this from our weekly Torah portion of Chukat. In our parsha we learn of the death of Miriam and of Aaron, and of the decision God made not to allow Moses to lead our people into the Promised Land. We are reminded of the humanity, of the frailties, and of the failures of our ancestors and of our leaders. Yet, despite all of that, we rightly remember them as great leaders of our people, as teachers of Torah, as role models (for the most part) for all of us. Thanks to their efforts, we derive our most cherished values and teachings thanks to the efforts of those ancestors who envisioned a world far better than the world they lived in and far better than the world we live in today.

So, this weekend, let us celebrate this Shabbat, Juneteenth, and Father’s Day, with the understanding that great things have happened in the past, that these special days remind us that change is possible, and that we can look forward to more progress in the future, as we build on the lessons learned from our vast expanse of history, both Jewish and American.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror