Whom to Believe?

The WORD – 1/17/13.  In today’s world, whom can we believe?

Tonight on national TV, we will finally get to hear Lance Armstrong admit that he used performance enhancing drugs on his way to winning the Tour de France seven times.  Despite the fact that it is being billed as a confession, some people are skeptical of Armstrong’s sincerity.  After all, he is no longer cycling competitively and he won a libel law suit.  So, what exactly is he up to?

Then, there is Manti Te’o a linebacker on Notre Dame’s football team, who was very nearly voted the best college football player in the nation this past season.  This past September on the same day that his grandmother died, he shared with the media that his girlfriend died just a few hours later.  It now turns out that he had an on-line relationship with a fictionalized woman.  Was he the victim of a cruel hoax or was he part of some publicity stunt that spun wildly out of control?

Then, there’s the more garden-variety type of dishonesty that we see sprinkled throughout the news.  Just ten days after publicly declaring his intention to stay at the University of Oregon, football coach Chip Kelly announced that he would become the next coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.  At least two US Representatives have declared their intention to impeach President Obama for issuing executive orders regarding guns – good political posturing, but not very honest.  A group of gun enthusiasts have suggested that Gene Rosen — the Newtown, CT psychologist who took in some Sandy Hook students who escaped the shooting — is really an actor hired by anti-gun activists.

In this age of dishonesty, it’s easy to be a skeptic.  When we hear a claim stated as fact, we “google” it see if it’s true.  When we meet someone new or interview someone for a job, we search the internet to confirm their stories.  If something sounds too good to be true, we assume it’s not.

How sad.  It makes us seem very different from the characters in this week’s Torah portion.

God told Moses to go to Pharaoh’s court where God would show signs and humiliate the Egyptians.  Moses did not question God.  He took his brother Aaron and went.  Upon seeing the signs, Pharaoh’s courtiers believed Moses and Aaron and implored Pharaoh to let the Israelites go.  The only person who did not believe was Pharaoh – and the reason for his disbelief was that God had hardened his heart.

Now, I am not suggesting that we simply set aside our skepticism and start believing every word that comes out of the mouths of professional athletes, coaches and politicians.

I am simply pointing out that the chronic dishonesty in our society has made it harder for us to believe in the goodness of people.  It has made it harder for us to discern the Divine Presence in our world.  If we are not careful, we too might become hard-hearted.





About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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