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The Choices We Make

I would like to start off with something like, “what a week,” but it feels like I could use that line way too often these days. This week’s excitement centered around a disastrous rally to promote hatred and bigotry. Based on the amount of ink written and video filmed there is a lot of opinions and a lot of lessons to be learned. But of certain things there can be only one opinion, one side and that is that hatred and bigotry have no place in our civilized society. If your group’s who

le reason for being is to express your superiority over another based on arbitrary and erroneous characteristics, and its views lead to violence against those others, your rights to freedom of speech and expression cease. End of story.

This week I want to concentrate on one specific lesson that I focused on over the weekend as events unfolded. I want to discuss the consequences of free speech and the choices that we make when we express our views publicly.

I am all for free speech. It is one the pillars upon which our country was founded. Men and women have fought and died to defend this right. Our insistence on this right to free speech by definition means that we will be subjected to words that disgust us. It means we will have to listen to hateful speech that makes our insides churn in repulsion. Whether its neo-Nazis and white supremacists or pro- BDS and anti-Israel hate groups, we must bear the brunt of vile animosity so that we have the right to stand proud and declare the opposite, loudly and often. But all this does not mean that there should not be penalties for one’s words. Just because you have the right to say something does not mean that you are immune from consequences. The government cannot and should not jail you for your speech, but employers should have the right to fire you, schools should have the right to expel you, advertisers should have the right to drop you. This is a lesson I hope those who participated in this past weekend’s demonstration in Charlottesville will learn, as their faces, having been caught on social media are now forwarded around the county.

One thing we learn from this week’s Torah portion is that we all have choices in life. The portion begins, “See, I have put before your blessings and curses,” - you choose. As the Israelites are about to enter the land of Israel they are given the gift of the freedom of choice. They can choose to follow God’s laws and prosper in the new land, or they can choose to disobey God and suffer the consequences. Either way, it is each individual’s choice.

After events of this week, I hope people will spend more time contemplating the choices they make in life, and strive to make the world a better, safer place.

Shabbat Shalom

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