I was sitting in Shabbat services yesterday, which has gotten increasingly rare actually….but that’s another story. As my regular readers may have noticed, posting here has gotten rare, too….part of the same story.
But once again, as the joy and challenge of Torah so often reveals, something caught my eye yesterday. It was in the parasha B’ha’alot’cha, the story of Eldad and Medad. (Num: 11:26-30) Moses was out prophesying to the people, and two men in the community, Eldad and Medad, were back at camp, also prophesying. A young assistant ran to tell Moses, saying these two were “acting the prophet”. Then Joshua spoke up and implored Moses to restrain them. Moses replied, “Are you wrought up on my account? Would that all of God’s peoples were prophets…”
Moses wasn’t calling dibs on prophecy.
I was thinking about this in light of the recent controversy over some of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s statements about comparing the camps and conditions in which migrant children are being held, to Nazi concentration camps. There has been a lot of backlash (and support) for her statements. I do not take comparisons to the Holocaust lightly. In fact, I tend to view them with great skepticism. Then I read Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s article in the Washington Post. Not only does she make the distinction between concentration camps and death camps, she writes, “But the Holocaust didn’t begin with gas chambers, and it’s not business as usual in America right now. We already know that the path to atrocity can be a process, and that the Holocaust began with dehumanizing propaganda, with discriminatory laws, with roundups and deportations, and with internment. Those things are happening in our country now..”
Which brings me back to Eldad and Medad. We, the Jewish people, do not have dibs on the Holocaust. If it meant anything then, it means today that we stand up and shout when other people are being treated the way we were. We stand up and shout when others are dehumanized, rounded up, portrayed as evil and “lesser” human beings, and we say, “Never again!”
As Moses said, would that all of our community acted the prophet. A prophet’s job is to announce and warn and draw attention to social situations that are against God’s teachings. We all need to be Eldad and Medad, and Moses would approve.