As I write this message, two things are converging in very meaningful ways. Firstly, Shabbat Shuvah. The Shabbat between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when we heighten our awareness of the things we’ve done and attempt to ‘Correct and Rebalance’. Converging with Shabbat Shuvah, in our Canadian world, today is the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
Our Jewish world, and our Canadian world, merge into the Torah’s repeated message to always have compassion for those in peril because we know what that means – we were born as a nation from the persecutions of ancient Egypt. Pain is a human thing, not a Jewish thing.
Truth and Reconciliation is the perfect term for September 30, the Canadian date of remembrance, as it is for this Shabbat, the Jewish time of seeking repair. We understand that nothing can be healed unless we start by giving someone their voice back – allowing people to tell us of their experiences, unedited, unfiltered, the words of their hearts.
Mostly, as Canadians, we are proud of our place in the world. We are known as the peacekeepers, the culture of politeness and calm.
But we also know that Canada has had a history of intolerance, and worse, towards people of difference – whether it was immigration (as we all know the infamous government statement of “None is too many”), or it was the people who were present in the land before Canada was Canada. Canadian history includes closing our hearts when hunted Jews were desperate, as well as closing our eyes when Indigenous Peoples were targeted.
It is traditional to wear orange today, as it represents the story of one little girl, Phyllis Webstad. Phyllis proudly wore the orange shirt her grandmother bought her for her first day of residential school. The shirt was stripped away, and 6-year-old Phyllis quickly understood she was invisible, that her grandmother’s love was unimportant. Today we remember the children, and the future that was taken from Indigenous Nations.
We don’t often see the different threads of our identity weave together. Right now, we listen to the history of Canada, without denying the heartache, as we also listen to our Jewish legacy teaching us to work towards repairing the damage we put into the world.
When we sit at our Shabbat tables tonight, let’s wear something orange to show we share our strength with the symbol it represents, that every child matters. We know so well that history matters only when it sets our feet firmly to change what comes next.
Let’s give thought, therefore, this Shabbat, to the convergence of ‘Truth, Correction, Rebalance and Reconciliation.