Religious Life

This is Me – A Weekly Letter from Rabbi Davis – April 13, 2018

Shalom Chaverim,

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

These lyrics from the smash hit movie, The Greatest Showman, made their way into my seder this year. The movie describes a band of outsiders and misfits who find a home with each other in the Barnum circus. Ostracized by society for being “freaks,” they come to see themselves, their talents and their person as special. And like the Israelite slaves who had been beaten down, they did not allow “shame to sink in” but rather stood up proudly to affirm, “I am who I am meant to be.”

The song reminds me of a brakha. In Judaism, there is a blessing for everything under the sun. There is even a blessing to be recited upon seeing exceptionally stranger and beautiful looking people: “Praised are You, God, who varies the forms in God’s world.”

Upon seeing a bearded woman, a giant, a fat man, a dog man, etc. (all characters from the movie), our natural inclination is to turn away or to stare. That is only natural. We notice differences. In our attempt to be sensitive, we shush our children who say “look at that funny looking person.”

But our tradition would have us do something different- to acknowledge that the person was created by God. As such and no matter how “strange” they appear, they have infinite value and worth and are worthy of our honor. Rather than look away, we are called upon to see them as holy and to appreciate that the diversity of humanity is truly the greatest show of all time.

In this week, when we commemorate Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, we take this message to heart. The Nazis believed there was a perfect Aryan race and sought to eliminate all who deviated from their vision of the master race. That was true of the many kinds of people, gays and lesbians, Gypsies, blacks, people with disabilities, etc. and of the ultimate outsiders and misfits, Jews. In the face of persistent discrimination, even extermination, we find common cause with other outcasts believing in ourselves and knowing that we must be ourselves without apology. In the words of “It is Me:”

But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious.


Rabbi Alexander Davis