The Commandment of Inclusion 

February 5, 2021
By Beth Mordecai
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The Commandment of Inclusion 

We are probably aware that the month of February is Black History Month. School children across the nation are exposed to black writers and thinkers as they devote classroom time to the history of black people in America. Given the events of last spring and summer, and the renewed spirit and energy in the fight for racial equity and justice, I pray that this time is being spent well and meaningfully.

Your streaming service has probably suggested to you films and TV you can watch for this month. Maybe your favorite publication has some articles or a series running throughout February to keep these important topics in the forefront. There are a lot of ways to engage with Black History Month.

February is also Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month (JDAIM). Synagogues, schools, and other community organizations commit and recommit to the work of making sure that all of our communal Jewish spaces are open and accessible to people of all abilities. That means physical adaptations as well as technological ones to ensure that the Jewish community is truly a place for everyone.

It feels fated then that on the first Shabbat of this particular month we should read the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai with its centerpiece the Ten Commandments. Most of the commandments are actions or behaviors – observe Shabbat, do not steal – except for the first one. “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” How does one actually fulfill this commandment?

Scholars and Rabbis have discussed this question across the generations. Most seem to agree that one fulfills this mitzvah by having an awareness of the reality of God, that is that God is singular, unique, and is contained within everything. The implications of God awareness mean that at all times we have the ability to recognize the Divine presence in us and certainly within others.

After all, that is one of the overlapping messages of Black History Month and JDAIM – that our humanity is what bestows on us a small measure of divinity. And by virtue of that, all people – regardless of what may make them different from us – matter a great deal.

May we all come to have an awareness of God as we world towards a world of inclusion and equity for all people.

Shabbat Shalom










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