Honorable Mensch-ion

Conductors of Our Lives

Just a few years ago, birthday party conversation centered around social and cultural talk: the best movies and the most delicious restaurants. Today, the chatter is different. You hear in depth analysis of the most current acts of antisemitism–internationally, nationally, and on a micro level, affecting our own neighborhoods.

In the last two days, our inboxes were flooded with colleagues praying for our safety in Los Angeles with the recent shootings of Jews walking out of a daily minyan.

Parents called asking how they should explain these acts to their children.

In his book, Hope, Not Fear, Rabbi Benjamin Blech tells the story of the great Italian symphonic conductor, Toscanini, who could not be present at a concert overseas. He listened to the music on a short wave radio, an orchestra of 120 musicians. After the concert, he was upset. He only heard 14 violins when there should have been 15. His friend who listened with him thought he was being sarcastic, but Toscanini responded, “There is a great difference between the audience and the conductor. To the audience, everything sounds wonderful. The conductor needs to know every note of music that has to be played.”

Last week, we read the Ten Commandments. They are straightforward and fairly obvious. This week, we read the minutia of Parshat Mishpatim, dozens of mitzvot that relate to the intricacies of how we treat each other.

While the Ten Commandments may be for the audience, the rest of the Torah enables us to be the conductor, to hear each note of our lives and obligates us to recognize that we as Jews live within a community of responsibility.

Too many times, acts of antisemitism bond us together for 48 hours and we return to become audience members.

At one point, we must become the conductors of our Jewish lives, understanding the notes that surround us so that the orchestra of our tradition is beautiful to the audience, both within our own community and to the larger world.

The music of our Jewish live should be lived with hope, not fear.

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