My last musing on Israel was from Jordan. Now I am in New Jersey. I am not sure I feel any safer, any calmer, or any happier.
In that first musing, I called out the viciousness of some of the comments made by Jews about other Jews in the aftermath of the attack. People began the name calling: fascist, anti-Zionist, racist, self-hating Jews, oppressor, and the simple ones; stupid and ignorant.
I asked that we be thoughtful, maybe civil, and even stretch to be kind to each other, in this time of yet another trauma for the Jewish people. I remain filled with sadness, hurt, confusion, upset and anger, but still love. So, this time I ask that we all stretch even further, to that love.
I think that is sometimes what it means to be Jewish. And Sacredly Aging.
A few weeks ago, one of my friends, Carol, died. She was a great woman, and left a great husband, great children and grandchildren.
Only not really left behind.
When I met with her shortly before her passing, to help her with a Viddui, I told her I would look up into the night sky and pick out a star. I would imagine her as that star, twinkling down on us.
I was thinking about what Mufasa said to Simba.
Later I found out she had used the same metaphor to explain to her young granddaughter that she would always be around. And to her grandson she said that she would be the wings on his sneakers when he was running. She found a way to express her death to young children. Can’t we all find a way to express our upsets (and disagreements) to adults, without venom or nastiness?
I know my friend Carol was a special human being. And she was filled with love for her grandchildren. And we are talking about talking to adults who we don’t even like. But we as Jews are required to “love your fellow person as yourself.”
In fact, some of us, before davening say, “Harèyni m’kabeyl alai et mitzvat ha-Borey, V’ahàvta l’reyacha kamòcha.”
I declare that I accept the commandment of the creator, love your fellow person as yourself. What an amazing declaration! What a context to set for prayer. I suggest it is a context for our whole day. In fact, I have added it to my personal morning prayer, to
remind me how to act in the coming day.
When I am engaging on current events, or politics (or even religion), I try to remember that the person who is spouting some asinine points was created in Gods image.
“How is that possible?” I often think. So, I have to return to love.
Not love like I love my wife and children. But love like a possibility, like a possibility that I could learn something about another one of God’s creations, no matter how I feel about that jerk, or how I feel about God in that moment.
Someone asked me the other day if I felt that the current divisiveness and bigotry and maybe hatred was the fault of organized religion, or perhaps the lack of organized religion. I thought that was an interesting question to ask me, someone who had been raised without much organization to his religion, but then at age 65 decided it was time to get ordained.
I responded that I thought the absence of widespread teaching of religious precepts, because of the constantly decreasing number of people identifying with or participating in organized religious activities was indeed part of the problem.
We don’t teach civics or ethics in the schools and people don’t receive the training in our churches, synagogues and mosques either. All of these Abrahamic religions have the Hebrew Bible (you might call it Tanach or the Old Testament) as a source document. So, Leviticus 19:18, loving your neighbor, is there for each person born into those religions.
Rogers and Hammerstein said that “you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear”.
It would be great if we were teaching, and remembering Leviticus instead of how to hate all the people our relatives hate. We as wise elders must not sit back, we must teach. Civility, tolerance and love.
And if you want to listen to a beautiful reminder, check out Mandy Patinkin.
It is not too late. It is never too late.
“To be a Jew is to be an agent of hope in a world serially threatened by despair,” said Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks. “Judaism is a sustained struggle, the greatest ever known, against a world that is, in the name of the world that could be, should be, but is not yet.”
It is our job to engage in that struggle using our accumulated wisdom. I am a glass half empty kind of guy. So, I have to force myself to be an agent of hope. To write columns like this. But I do. All it takes is love.
CARL VINIAR has been a lawyer, mediator, teacher, professor, seminar leader, trainer, service leader, pastoral counselor, son, father, sibling and friend. Now he is now an author, having completed A Guide To Premarital Counseling For Clergy Working With People Remarrying or Marrying Later In Life, which has been posted here on Jewish Sacred Aging.
He can be reached for inquiries about this manual and other related topics at RebCarl2022@gmail.com.