Sermon Text: Then Rabbi's Sister
Today I want to tell you the story of the rabbi's sister.
It's a good story, and it's a true story. Her name is Sarah, and her sister Susan is a for-real rabbi. But this story is about Sarah, not her sister the rabbi.
Sarah is famous. She's a comedian. Her name is Sarah Silverman, and I'm sure some of you have heard of her. I just read an on-line article about Sarah by a guy named Bill Murphy, Jr.
I've seen some of Sarah's comedy. I'm really not all that crazy about it...it's not my style. But now I'm crazy about Sarah, and here's why.
Murphy wrote this: "If you're active and opinionated on social media, especially Twitter, you're going to be attacked at some point. So what should you do when that happens?
Should you attack back? Ignore it all?"
Well, Murphy tells the story about how Sarah did something different. Sarah is on Twitter a lot...that's something else I'm not crazy about. Another Twitter user attacked Sarah last month. His name is Jeremy, and he used a one-word obscenity about her.
But here's the thing. Sarah did not attack him back, or even mock him. Bill Murphy says she could have taken him down easily, because she's really funny. Instead, she took the time to look through his Twitter feed and see who this guy was.
After she did that, she tweeted her response: "I believe in you. I read your timeline and I see what you are doing. Your rage is thinly veiled pain. But you know that...I know this feeling. See what happens when you choose love. I see it in you."
This caught Jeremy the tweet troll off-guard. He started to tell Sarah some of the pain of his background. Hundreds, or even thousands, of people read this back-and-forth between Sarah and Jeremy. She asked him to think about joining a support group. She even tried to find a doctor in his city who might treat a medical problem he was having with his back.
Jeremy put up a GoFundMe account to try to pay for the treatment. Sarah used her own celebrity to share it. It turned out that the surgery would cost more than Jeremy could raise. So Sarah offered to pay for it herself!
Bill Murphy the writer called this an example of emotional intelligence -- a combination of emotional awareness, and the ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem-solving.
What it really comes down to is this: Sarah is simply compassionate and smart.
The article I read offered these lessons from Sarah's example in dealing with difficult people:
First, she took a little time before responding. According to the Twitter feed records, she took time to think. She did not react quickly. She had the self-control to pause before reacting.
Second, she took the time to learn the context. You know that saying I've quoted in sermons time and time again: "Be kind...everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Sarah looked through Jeremy's messages on Twitter, and learned about his physical pain.
Third, Sarah decided to take a chance. It might have been safer and easier to ignore this guy. But Sarah has been doing a TV series with a mission to reach out to people she does not understand or agree with. Her response to Jeremy was in line with her work. Murphy writes that she deserves a lot of credit for this.
Fourth, Sarah offered love and understanding, and she spoke his language. Her replies to him were authentic, empathetic and personal.
Fifth, she continued the conversation. She has tried to help Jeremy understand himself better. And she has engaged others in helping him, too.
All this has had an effect. Jeremy eventually said this to an interviewer: "I was once a giving and nice person, but too many things destroyed that. I became bitter and hateful.
Then Sarah showed me the way. Don't get me wrong, I still have a long way to go. But it's a start."
As I said, I'm not a real fan of Sarah Silverman's comedy, but I just love this story.
I think I read that Sarah happens to be an atheist. It's kind of funny that her sister Susan is a Reformed rabbi. They must have interesting family get-togethers! You know, I really don't care what Sarah believes about religion. But I am very, very impressed with how she chose to treat this person who insulted her profoundly.
I'm not trying to turn Sarah into an "anonymous Christian," or even a good, practicing Jew. But I can't help thinking about how her words and actions with Jeremy do reflect the teaching of the rabbi I am committed to follow.
I honor Sarah for what she has done, rabbi's sister or not. I only hope you and I can treat others the way she has done.
Wouldn't our world be a better place if we all did?