1. Deuteronomy: Re’eh

Re’eh means “see”. 

I am deeply conflicted about something I’m taking from this week’s portion.  There is lots in the news about a mosque and Islamic community center that may be built at the site of the World Trade Center.  The ADL has issued a statement against building a mosque here.  Many conservative politicians are against building a mosque here.  The talk is that a mosque would be a painful reminder for the survivors and families affected by 9/11. 

I suppose it depends on what you “see” when you look at a mosque.  Is it a symbol of terrorism?  Or is it a place to come together and worship?  Are we allowing terrorists to define Islam for us?  And if we are, isn’t that our own choice, and therefore our own problem?  I don’t know a lot of Muslims, and I don’t know any Muslims very well.  I don’t know the Koran or what it teaches.  I do know the Torah.

This week’s portion tells the Israelites to destroy all of the places of worship built by the inhabitants of the land promised to them by God (this after they have been told by God, through Moses, to kill all of the people in their way).  It’s pretty brutal.  Through Moses, God tells the Israelites to build a place of worship at a place of God’s choosing and that this is the only place where the Israelites are to worship God.

So, let’s pretend for a moment that the Muslim people who want to build a mosque at Ground Zero are really evil (which I do not for one moment believe).  Since America is a land ruled by money and power, then perhaps the World Trade Center could be seen as our central place of worship.  And perhaps it is being replaced now by a Mosque, a place for the people of Islam to worship.  Do you see the parallel at all?

We have a choice about the way we see things, people, the world around us.  I choose to see good wherever I can.  Some would think this naive, which is okay with me.  And perhaps true.  There are evil people and there are people doing evil things all the time.  And there are really good people doing really good things all the time.  So where do we put our focus?  My greatest focus for the last several years has been to raise good people, mensches.  And even the parenting books say that the best way to get children to behave well is to reward good behavior and, when possible, ignore bad behavior.  Don’t give it the attention and it will often go away in favor of good behavior.

I do believe that the people who want to build a mosque at Ground Zero have good intentions.  It is my choice to see them this way.  And until they prove me wrong, I will naively continue.  Where will peace and understanding begin if not with the choices that each of us make about how we choose to see the people around us?

Is it a place of worship or a home for terrorists?  You choose, I already have.

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