I did not know that this something was missing from our grounds. When Jared and his father Matt presented the idea to our synagogue board, I started having an inkling of what it might feel like. As the grounds were prepared for their new guests, I felt the energy of those involved in the project–younger and older, Jewish and not–and my anticipation grew. But nothing could prepare me for the sight of seeing those flags flying at the entrance to our synagogue. And there are few things about which I have ever felt as proud as the sight of those flags outside my bedroom window each morning as I roll up the shade.
It took a scout to have the vision. To be exact, it took an Eagle Scout. Ironic, given that as the Israelites send out scouts to see the land promised to them, their shortsightedness and narrow vision caused the great majority of the scouts to see themselves as unqualified for the task. In contrast, our scout inspired a community, excited the leadership, and motivated us to achieve the possible.
There is something to these stars and stripes, the blue ones on white, and the red, white and blue ones. They remind us of sacrifices made, traditions upheld, identity shared and loyalty earned. For many, they call up feelings of pride and courage; for others, they stir up conflict, enmity and resentment. Even among the standard bearers, the flag can be a source of disagreement as to which of our freedoms requires protection at any moment in time, and as to how we go about providing that protection. (This is what happens when you see the final scene of A Few Good Men three times in the same week!)
As for me, the two flags represent companions to the mezuzah on my doorpost, a gateway through which I will pass each day as I leave my home. And I will be reminded in my coming and my going to scout my world with the lasting hope that I can advance the cause of liberty and justice for all.
Rabbi Craig Scheff
I am a patriot.
Call me sentimental, but I see the colors of the flag and my chest swells. I stand a bit taller and feel a bit stronger when I see someone in uniform pass by. Seeing that banner wave against the sky, I think of the dedication that so many show to the cause. I take pride in the victories and mourn the losses, even if I have not set foot on the field of battle myself.
As a patriot, I can be critical of my own cause. I can disagree with the strategies utilized, question the personnel employed, and even dislike the individual personalities of those entrusted with the helm. As one on the sidelines, entrusting others to carry the ball for me, I am relied upon to vote with my voice and with my checkbook. Amongst those who share my passion, I can express my frustrations and feelings of persecution. I can find solace in a community of people who believe that the cause is just, and that ultimately we will be vindicated as champions of all that can be good and right in the world.
As a patriot on foreign soil, however, I am far more guarded. I am not so quick to show my true colors. I take personally the barbs and accusations of excessive pride, privilege, self-absorption and insularity. Fending off the parries with rationalizations or excuses only comes across as empty defensiveness. Relativizing any potential wrongdoing by comparing the accusations with the injustices committed under other regimes is dismissed as inconsequential. My standard-bearers are held to a higher standard than most, and any wrongdoing—or potential thereof—is headline news.
Such is the price of those who dare to lead, who shed the label of underdog and take ownership of their place in history.
Wherever I stand, I stand with America; I stand with Israel; I stand with the Jewish people.
Rabbi Craig Scheff