Shabbat Shemot 5773

On the day that the survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary School return to class, albeit in a new building, I’m remembering a Facebook posting I saw a number of times in the days after the horrific shootings. It went like this:

“Dear God, 

Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?


A concerned student.

Dear concerned student,

I’m not allowed in schools.


Now, most of my Facebook connections are Jewish, and intriguingly, it was Jews who re-posted this message. I say “intriguingly” because I wonder how much thought they gave to one constitutional issue (school prayer) while making a statement about another (gun legislation).

So on the Shabbat designated “Shabbat to Stop Gun Violence” by various national Jewish organizations, it’s also fitting that we will be studying the chapter on Civic Morality (pp. 439-451) at our lunch n learn on The Observant Life. The chapter mentions our relationship with the seat of authority, including the matter of civil disobedience. This Shabbat, we begin reading Sefer Shemot, Exodus, and the story of the midwives’ refusal to carry out Pharaoh’s cruel decree of infanticide. So for many reasons, civic morality is an important subject to address this coming Shabbat.

As a Jew, what do you think of that Facebook posting? What are your thoughts on the role of religion in the public square? What are the limits of civil disobedience? Let’s use the chapter and the parashah guide our conversation on Shabbat morning after services. 

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi David Wise