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Abuse – do not remain silent (Parashat Tzav)

Shalom BayitThis evening, I am not going to share with you some regular thoughts on our Torah portion of this Shabbat. We will learn more about it tomorrow morning, especially from our Bat Mitzvah Jessica.

What I would like to share with you is a deep impression I have made this week at a seminar that was organized by Shalom Bayit, and I am very thankful that I had the chance to join the seminar.

The topic of the seminar was ABUSE; physical, mental, and sexual abuse. I know, this is not a usual topic for a Friday night sermon, but please bear with me for a moment.

The people on the podium, as well as two survivors shared with us not only facts, numbers and statistics, we can read everywhere; their words lead us into a sea of an emotional abyss, which they had to face personally or as counsellors professionally. They shared with us the brutality of any abuse, and how this affects and changes the life of any victim forever.

Even though we don’t like to hear it, we must hear the following: The abuse of women, men, girls and boys has been happening also in the “Jewish world”, it has been happening in our progressive one, too. We need to hear it, because it happens, and can happen everywhere at any time to everyone.

I don’t want to shock you, but I have to, because we need to be aware of it. Awareness is the first step to change the situation, and to help the victims.

Our Torah portion for this week is mentioning again the Ner Tamid, the eternal light or flame that once was lit in the sanctuary on the altar of the tabernacle and the temple, and has now become a symbol of God’s presence in every synagogue.

Some of you might (hopefully) remember that I talked about the eternal light just some weeks ago, because it was also a topic in Parashat Tetzaveh. On that Shabbat I shared with you the idea that the Ner Tamid is not only this light above the Aron HaKodesh, the Torah Ark, that represents God’s presence in our Synagogue, it is also the divine spark that is imbedded in every human being. This eternal light is nourished by our love and care for another human being. It is the love of a parent, a partner, of a child, of a friend, or even a stranger that feeds this eternal light in us.

But, let’s be reminded that this light is very fragile, it can be easily diminished or even worse, it can be extinguished very easily by abuse. This light needs our joined protection. We all, as individuals, and as part of this community have a high responsibility to keep this light shining, bright and un-touched.

If we learn that one person, only one, is in danger, or even already abused, we need to act immediately. As Rabbi Goldstein said – there is a zero tolerance policy towards abuse.

I have much more in my mind, I would like to share with you – the words of the survivors have impressed me heavily, and I know this is not the right place to share these experiences. But I think we should be having a seminar on this topic in the nearer future in order to give you all more information – first hand.

In the meantime, I would like to make you aware what you can do, if you learn about abuse, or if you need help.

We have pamphlets from Shalom Bayit in the foyer of the synagogue. They help you to understand more what abuse is, how you can recognize it, and how you can help or get help. Please get them.

As I said before, awareness is the first step to help the victims. Abuse happens, and the victims need our help. This synagogue is a safe zone. If you need help, or if you know of someone, who needs help, you will find it here.

Shabbat Shalom

WHERE TO TURN FOR HELP:

Chevrah Kadisha – 24hour line: 082-499-1010

Life Line: 011-728-1347

CSO Emergency: 086-1-8000-18

POWA 24hour line: 0800-150-150

Hatzolah – 24hour line: 083-222-1818