Friday, July 28, 2017

Health Care is a Moral Right

Yesterday, July 27th, was the third action for health care in the last two weeks in which I participated. I was arrested at the first two, I spoke at the third - I had the honor of following the great Rev. Barber.
I begin speaking at 11:47 (and a few other appearances later - including me singing slightly off key -oh, well!) plus keep an eye for excellent colleague Rabbi Ruti Reagan in a blue silk tallit, but you should really watch the entire thing - it's worth it, believe me.
Oh, also... did I mention... we won?

Here is, more or less, the text of my remarks:

Good morning,
I am Rabbi Alana Suskin. I am not anyone famous or important -except that as a rabbi, I am called to be a kli kodesh - a vessel for the holy, and in that role, two days ago, I was arrested in the Senate gallery for chanting alongside dozens of other people: clergy of all faiths, physicians, grieving mothers, and many more American citizens. Our message was clear: Kill the Bill. Protect our care.

I was in the Senate gallery that day because, as a rabbi and as a Jew, I am obligated to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.  I came to the Senate to tell them, that it is a moral and religious obligation for our society to care for the sick.

Today, once again, speaking with one voice, we implore Senators to oppose any efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The Book of Isaiah warns, “Woe to you who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.” The Republican health care bill that strips children, families and elderly people of affordable coverage is the very definition of such an unjust law. It would leave more than 32 million people without healthcare by 2026.

Who will comfort the grieving mothers, the bereft fathers, the children whose parents died far too young to raise them? Who will hold their hands and wipe their tears? I refuse. I refuse to let this state of affairs come to pass. There is no justification for slashing Medicaid and taking health insurance away from 32 million low-income Americans, people with disabilities, children and seniors -- while lavishing tax cuts on insurance companies and the very wealthy.

There is no excuse for letting insurance companies impose lifetime limits that cut off your insurance as you face life-threatening disease. It is immoral. There is no acceptable reason. We will not stand for it.

The Golden Rule, to not do to others what we would not have done to us, is a fundamental value held across faiths.  But Members of Congress who vote for the Senate health care repeal bill will still have coverage for themselves, while leaving millions of Americans at risk of bankruptcy, health emergencies and death. The American Health Care Act makes a mockery of the Golden Rule.

Hebrew Scripture teaches in many, many, places, that as a society, we have a duty to care for the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed.
In Leviticus, we are told, “If your brother is becoming poor, and is not able to support himself; then you must support him...” Jewish commentaries[i] explain, “If your brother is becoming poor, do not let him fall. He is like a load resting on a wall; as long as it is still not fallen, just a single person can hold it and prevent it from falling, but once it has fallen to the ground, even five cannot raise it up again.”
Once people fall into deep difficulty it takes a much greater effort to help them –if it is possible at all. Emergency room care isn’t enough: we must enable everyone to access health care.

Behold the sin of your sister Sodom: pride, satiation, and a quiet, peaceful mind was in her and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy [ii].
We stand together today – and for as long as it takes – against repealing the ACA. We must vote down ANY bill that would strip healthcare from 33 million people.

In the book of Deuteronomy
we read:
אַחֲרֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ …
You shall walk after the Lord your God…

The rabbinic sages
[iv] explain: What does this mean: …[It means] to walk after the attributes of the Holy One, blessed be. As God clothes the naked, … so must you clothe the naked. As God, visits the sick…  so must you visit the sick. As God comforts mourners, so must you comfort mourners...

If we are commanded to walk after the attributes of God, well, it is also written in Exodus[v]
אֲנִי יְהֹוָה רֹפְאֶךָ
I, God, am your healer.
As God heals the sick, so must we heal the sick.

Senators now must answer a moral question: whom do they serve? Do they serve all the people, or do they serve only millionaires and powerful special interests? If they serve the people, they will reject this bill.

[i] (Sifra 109b on Leviticus 25:35)
[ii] (Ezekiel 16:49)
[iii] (13:5)
[iv] (Talmud Sotah 14a)
[v] 15:26
See more from the extraordinary Rev. William Barber at his site Repairers of the Breach.

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