To my BFFs at FB: a brief dalliance with speaking my mind

Matot-Masei
Numbers 30:2–36:13
Jeremiah 2:4-28; 3:4

Dear Facebook Friends: Thank you for all your good wishes. I hope this adventure as a young rabbi in a new community works out! Next week is my first board meeting.

Dear FBFs: Well, that could have gone better. Just a quick word: I was told to speak only when spoken to.

Dear FBFs: Sorry for the mysterious postings. Remember that this is a closed group, so no reposting. After each business item, the oldest rabbi repeated the same thing: “Now remember, our branding, for which we paid a small fortune, is that we are ‘A welcoming community with a lighthearted look at the Jewish tradition with a warmhearted welcome to our annual campaign.’ ”

Dear FBFs: The person who was supposed to do the dvar Torah never showed up, so at the conclusion of the meeting the president of the board, after introducing me, asked me to say a few words about the Torah portion, Matot-Masei, Numbers 30:2–36:13. Just my luck, but OK, that’s what I am here for, right?

I opened, with one eye on the text and the other on the clock, that in the ancient world women were under the authority of the men of their families.

Since so much of the board meeting was concerned with the timing of services and parking issues, I focused on vows, as in Kol Nidre, and how important are the words we say.

A voice in the back began again, “We are a community with a lighthearted look at the Jewish tradition with a warmhearted welcome to our annual campaign. We are not censoring anyone.”

I continued that because women were under the authority of men (there he goes again with the “lighthearted”  stuff), and they could say things that counted, the Torah allows a father or husband to cancel his daughter’s or wife’s vows.

I read, “And Moses spoke to the chiefs of the tribes concerning the people of Israel, saying, this is the thing which the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth. If a woman also vows a vow to the Lord, and binds herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth, and her father hears her vow, and her bond with which she has bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond with which she has bound her soul shall stand.”

I should have stopped there. But a woman on the board raised her hand. I’ve got to go now, more later.

Dear FBFs: I’m back. Yeah, a lawyer, she got it. If the male authority does not cancel in time, then the vow stands. Someone then said, “So we should all learn to keep quiet and let people say what they want and not try to be politically correct.” I said, well, no.

What do you mean, no? I was asked.

By the way, all of you who warned against teaching Talmud or ethics at a board meeting, thanks, that would have been good to know last month.

I shared from the Talmud, Yevamot 88b, “We must say that his silence is like an admission.” In other words, silence means consent. Sometimes we need to speak up.

The VP quickly said, “Please be cognizant that for us to remain tax-exempt under 501(c)(3), we must abide by strict guidelines that prohibit electioneering.”

And again, “What part of ‘lighthearted look at the Jewish tradition’ didn’t you understand?”

A new voice came from another side. “Are you implying that vows, promises, declarations, defamations and characterizations made in speech, texts, tweets and postings that are objectionable, odious and damaging and are not responded to in a timely fashion mean that we are giving our consent?”

“A warmhearted welcome to our annual campaign!” he shouted.

Yes, I said.

Dear Facebook Friends: Thank you for all your good wishes. I hope this adventure as a young rabbi in a new community works out! Next week is my first board meeting.

wolf-prusan-rabbi-peretz-WEB
Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan

Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan is the chief program officer and senior educator at Lehrhaus Judaica. He can be reached at peretz@lehrhaus.org.