I am so tired of loss, and so in need of comfort and rest. I am so tired of death, and need a stretch of time not spending three or four days a week at a cemetery. I am so tired of hate and so in need of healing and peace. And I know, I am not the only one. We are a nation tired of loss, and death and hate.
As I watch family after family bury a loved one, I see over and over again the only thing that helps is their love for each other and the way they are embraced by family and friends, even if only through a zoom Shiva. I have had my own very difficult and painful experience this week and the only thing that has helped me is the love of my family and friends who care about me no matter what.
If we do not have the ability to really care about others who are suffering rather than to ignore, demonize or attack, we have no hope as a family, a congregation, a city or a nation. President Biden, who knows more than any person should have to know about loss and pain, put it so well when he addressed the nation saying: “I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the common foes we face: Anger, resentment, hatred… With unity we can do great things.”
Years ago there was a very instructive experiment regarding pain. The researchers placed individuals in a room alone and asked them to place their feet in a bucket of ice water for as long as they could. Next, subjects were asked to do the same thing but instead of being alone in the room they had a companion with them. In every case, the person with a companion was able to keep their feet in the ice water far longer that those who were alone. We need each other when we ache and are afraid. We need to reach out and be reached out to by people who care. No one endures suffering better alone. The Talmud says it perfectly when it reminds us, “The prisoner cannot free himself.”
This week in the Torah is the very first time we learn about Passover, our festival of liberation from hatred and cruelty; our moment in time when we began to become a people journeying together through a parted sea and sometimes frightening wilderness toward a promised land. Inspired by this story, the authors of our prayer book gave us these words. May we each have the compassion and the will to live their truth in the days ahead:
Standing on the parted shores of history
We still believe what we were taught
Before ever we stood at Sinai’s foot;
that wherever we go, it is eternally Egypt
that there is a better place, a promised land;
that the winding way to that promise
passes through the wilderness
That there is no way to get from here to there
except by joining hands, marching
Love and Shabbat shalom,