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Roe Overturned

Shlach L’cha | Friday, June 24, 2022.

When I read this morning’s news, I felt shocked.  I knew that it was coming but I did not allow myself to believe that Roe versus Wade would in fact be overturned.  I felt angry. I felt sad. I felt disempowered.

But I did not feel afraid.  Maybe somewhat afraid about what may come next. But not personally afraid about the impact of today’s decision.  There are reasons that I did not feel afraid including (1) I live in California. And (2) I have the community and the resources to ensure that I and my daughters, will have access to all of the health care that should come with having a body. A woman’s body.

I did not feel the way Laura, whose story appeared in this week’s New Yorker, did.  Laura lives in Dallas. She fell in love at the age of 13 with a tenth grader, became pregnant and decided to have an abortion.  It turned out to be early enough in the pregnancy that an abortion would not have been against Texas’ recent law, SB 8. However, every local clinic that offered abortions was books solid for the next several weeks. So by the time Laura could go in for an appointment it would have been illegal. The same was true of clinics in Oklahoma and Arkansas.  They finally scheduled an appointment in New Mexico.  The family drove seven hundred miles to get there. The cost of that trip was so burdensome that they could not afford a babysitter for Laura’s two younger sisters. So along they came, ages 8 and 4, asking questions about why their sister had to go to the doctor. And why so far away.

Laura’s father had himself become a parent in high school.  He wanted to have his children but he was profoundly aware of all that he had missed in his adolescence.  He wanted his daughter to fully experience her precious teenage years.

You should read the story. It is very compelling. For now, I will simply highlight that Laura occupied herself in the waiting room by watching TikTok. She got a note from the doctor explaining why she would miss a day of middle school.  With a supportive father and access to a clinic (burdensome as it was) Laura was one of the lucky ones.

In this week’s parsha, Moses sends twelve spies to scout out the land of Israel. Ten of them come back afraid. “The people who inhabit the country are powerful,” they say. “The cities are fortified and very large. The people are stronger than we are. We saw giants there. We looked like grasshoppers…to them.”

But two spies, Joshua and Caleb, come back and say, in effect, “We’re going to be OK. Don’t be afraid. We can handle this.”

This story is read as a one of faith versus fear. Optimish versus pessimism. Are we going to trust God or are we going stir up anxiety in the masses? Caleb and Joshua are the heroes. The other ten spies are weak in their resolve. They erode our society and threaten our future.

But I understood this story differently this morning. Whether or not we react to news with fear might not be a matter of our inner mettle. It might not have anything to do with how we feel about God or our willingness to turn to faith and trust. It might everything to do with the circumstances into which are born. It might have everything to do with whether we are 50 or 15. And with whether we come from Texas or California.

Here’s what I wish Joshua and Caleb and Moses would have said, “We are feeling strong right now. And confident. And need to – we need to –  get to a better place. And you’re feeling scared. And that’s understandable. So we’ve got you.  There are giants, yes. But we are going to stand up to those giants. We look like grasshoppers in their eyes. They have big strong fortified cities. In our case, they’re going to hijack the supreme court. They’re going to take a minority extremist opinion and write it into law. They’re going to claim the moral high ground and say that “Roe was egregiously wrong from start.” They’re going to threaten the very democratic foundation of this country.

They’re going to do all of that. And we are not backing down. We’ve got you. We will support abortion providers. We will find ways for you to travel from one state to another. We will send volunteers and activists and money and we will see this through.

And there’s one other thing that they are going to do.  They will  tell us that they own the religious voice. That they speak for God. But we know that’s not true. We know that liberal Jews, liberal Christians, liberal Muslims, progressive folks of all faiths and traditions- we know that we have a religious voice too. A powerful voice. That believes in the sanctity of life. And the dignity of every single human being to have agency over our own bodies.

There are so many ways to get involved.   You’ll hear from us but for now here are two:

You can make a donation right now to the National Council for Jewish Women’s Fund for Abortion Access.

And on Sunday, you can join us at 5:30 PM and Leo Baeck Temple. Also there will be Temple Isaiah, Stephen S. Wise Temple, Temple Beth Hillel, Kehillat Israel, Congregation Kol Ami, Temple Judea.  We will Praying, singing, organizing, speaking, listening, raising our collective voices. We’re going to say to all those who are afraid today, “We’ve got you. We’re on your side.  We’re not going anywhere.”

Join us on Sunday and for the rest of our lives.  Until we’ve won this fight.

Shabbat Shalom

– Rabbi Mari Chernow

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