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Rabbi Percy’s words still resound in my mind, as he taught us about the Torah through the eyes of Rabbi Yeshua and Moshe Rabenu. Rabbi Percy would get so frustrated because he felt that the message was not being received. He wasn’t speaking to those on the outside. He was speaking to us right here in our community; we who believe in the Creator. 

Our prophet Isaiah said, “Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.”  Isaiah 6 :1

And Yeshua referred to this passage when he spoke as recorded in Matthew 13;9-16

9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 10 The talmidim came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” 11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise, they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

I have had a lot of time to think during these days after rabbi Percy’s death. I can still hear so many of the things he taught us and I realize that if we simply read the Words of the Torah as a religious practice, but we don’t put them into practice, then they are just empty words. Rabbi Percy wanted us to be teachable, not stubborn, not proud about how much we know; he had 2 Master’s degrees in Engineering, he majored in political science and psychology. He taught thermodynamics in University at the age of 22. He had been a professor, a chaplain in the army, in prisons and in hospitals, he worked in the diplomatic corps of the US secret service in anti-terrorism, he was a VP of a multi-million-dollar organization but in the end, he said, it all meant nothing if he didn’t apply the Torah to his life and have a relationship with God. That’s what he dedicated his life to doing and teaching others.

One major difference between this and other religious communities, is that we teach that we cannot convert anyone. Some religions have been and are still violent about how they get this done; some are very persuasive, they buy you with kindness, others with promise of prosperity, but when you don’t tow their party line, they cut you off. Only God can change hearts; He never abandons us and only He can reveal who He is to anyone, only He can change hearts. Otherwise, we are simply switching from one religion to another, from one set of man-made rules to another. One Jewish man came to KSY many years ago with his wife. After a few visits he told rabbi Percy that he needed to leave and attend to a large synagogue because he couldn’t do much business here. Where was his heart?

So, what is our role in this community? Simply put, to do and obey. To those to whom much is given, much is required. One Jewish woman told me that she didn’t want to read the Bible because it would mean that she might have to do something that she may not want to do. It’s better, she said, not to know. Ignorance is no excuse because, the knowledge of right and wrong has already been ‘breathed’ into us so that when we read the written word, it resonates with our soul. Those who have ears will hear and those who have eyes will see. Each at their own pace. 

So, whenever we can, let’s look within to see what areas need work and let’s not give up until we find answers. If there is nothing that we can do about something, we then leave it in God’s Hands but not before we do everything within our power to have that paradigm shift. This is the beautiful thing about God and His Torah. He always fulfills His Promises to us even when we doubt. He knows that we’re human but let’s not allow ourselves to stay in that doubting state for too long.  Instead let’s remind ourselves, if necessary, out loud, what He said to us and what He has done for us and what He still does right up until today. He is our Shield and our Protector. He provides for us in ways that are sometimes impossible to comprehend. The secret lies in the acknowledgement of His gifts to us, the acknowledgment that we are not perfect, and that we need to make restitution for our failures. Then having and showing gratitude brings praise and finally the joy of being alive. Our Bore Olam, as a loving father, delights in seeing us happy and joyful. The idea that He ‘sees’ us and that we can ‘see’ Him is what constitutes having an intimate relationship.

The Creator and His Commandments are the key to all things good and beautiful on this earth. Our work is to obey them on a daily basis and the Torah teaches us about how to do that. This will allow us to shine and our light will illuminate our world. Let’s not worry about what plagues or tragedies are falling upon this earth. We have the stories about the flood, the exodus from Egypt, the history of our people with its repeated catastrophic moments in time, yet our God always prevailed, and He always will. Let us encourage and help each other to be strong, to grow and become the very best that we can be. We don’t have to be perfect, just a little better each day. Peggy Pardo