I am not often predisposed to publishing my sermons. Several of my congregants said that this one should go up on this blog. So done...
Have a good day everyone.
I debated whether to speak about my chosen topic today. The timing is appropriate, given the events in the news over the last week. On the other hand, I wanted to wait until Yom HaShoah, as that is how the mess in North Korea is resonating with me.
You have seen the news. You have likely heard the none other than the UN Human Rights Council took the time to focus on some matter other than Israel. The council came back with a graphic, damning report on the goings on in North Korea. The details of the report were contained in findings of over 350 pages. The report itself is 36 pages.
The report speaks of concentration camps. The report speaks of torture. The report speaks of starvation. The report speaks of summary executions. The report speaks of people chained to walls in the most uncomfortable positions for hours, days, or even weeks on end. The report speaks of inmates forced to run races along the ridges of cliffs. The report speaks of rape and human trafficking, the modern form of slavery. The list goes on and on.
If this resonates for us as Jews, there is good reason. While we were marked for extermination in a way that the people of North Korea have not been, the travail that the North Korean people are forced to endure is eerily, uncomfortably similar.
We cannot ignore this. The Torah specifically states that we are not to stand idly over the blood of our neighbours. We ourselves have all said, more than once, the words 'never again.' If those words only mean 'never again for us,' they are a mockery both of the North Korean people and of those of us who speak them. If those words mean something, if our own suffering means something, we must find ways to give action to those words.
I am still giving a great deal of thought to how we should do this. There are few charities with focus on the North Korean people. It is difficult to deal with a regime that is known as the hermit kingdom. If you have ideas, let me know.
Our parashah starts off with the words vaykhel moshe et kol adat b'nai Yisrael...and Moshe gathered all of the community of Israel. I remember being one of 250,000 people in Washington DC in 1987 when Mikhael Gorbachev was there. I remember reading about protests for Soviet Jewry in front of embassies and consulates. I have colleagues with arrest records from those days. There was no Reform. There was no Conservative. There was no Orthodox. We had a mission. We acted, as a community. I remember how well we were organized for our own. It is time to do that again. It is time to gather the community. It is time to give action to the words "never again."