Fresh wounds sting. They hurt. We know that. and if we care for them, they will heal. And if we do not care for them, they will decay and worsen. We know that in our heads. We need to know that in our hearts now, now that our national election is in our rearview mirror, but not out of sight, not out of our hearts.
There are over 70 million people in our country whose role model is very, very different from the role model of another group of people that number over 70 million. We learned that this week.
We pray that these over 140 million people share a common role model that is much higher than politicians. A theological role model. I feel that the common denominator for our many different faith names is a simple two-word command: “Be nice!” Religion, at its core, offers a moral compass and a sense of community.
Our scriptures have many names for G-D. It is a time to embrace Psalm 147, Verse 3. Here, HaShem is referred to as, “Who healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” Rabbi David Wolpe transposed this into the title of his wonderful book, Healer of Shattered Hearts: A Jewish View of G-D.
Reconstructing Judaism, formerly known as Reconstructionism, teaches:
“Comfort, comfort My people, nachamu nachamu ami” (Isaiah 40:1). The prophet Isaiah offered these simple but profound words from God to the Jewish people after the Temple was destroyed and all hope seemed lost. We search for tools to help us confront the truth of hardship and begin the process of healing. If we withdraw into our own private pain, ritual has the power to pull us out. It connects us with community — however large or small — and provides us with the hope, love and wisdom others can offer.”
One ritual we need now is communal prayer, praying together, in one voice.
HaShem is the healer of shattered hearts for all, Isaiah prophesies that all should be comforted, because we are all b’tzelem elohim, all in G-D’s image.
It begins with small steps, steps that sound small but take a large amount of courage.
Let’s return to last week’s Torah portion, where there is a perfect lesson in healing for this week’s election. G-D tells Abraham that G-D is going to destroy Sodom. The following commentary is a paraphrase of a commentary from Rabbi Eli Scheller of Oorah. When Abraham hears this forecast, Abraham knows in his head that the lifestyle in Sodom is completely opposite to Abraham’s way of life and teachings. Abraham is synonymous with loving kindness or chesed. In Sodom, Chesed was a crime. Giving charity to the poor could result in being executed
Yet, Abraham, knowing all this, prays for the survival of Sodom. And here, word for word, is what Rabbi Scheller says about this:
“Often people preach kindness, but they get angry and hate those who dispute their values. This is because their kindness is coming from the love they have for themselves. They are trying to build up their own confidence and self-esteem. Abraham’s kindness was based on his love for other people. … When doing acts of kindness out of love, the kindness will continue even when it’s hard and difficult for you …. It is true that the people of Sodom were doing wicked acts, but Abraham loved them and, therefore, anger and animosity did not play a role in whether or not to pray for them.”
Think of ways, and act on ways that bring us closer to one another, especially the challenge of moving closer to those at regrettably too much of an emotional distance from us because of the election.
In 1961, when Senator Kennedy was elected President Kennedy, in a nation where the fan clubs for each candidate also harbored deep resentments after the election, in his inaugural speech, President Kennedy reminded us that, here on earth, G-D’s work must truly be our own.
We respect that some wounds heal with scars. We reconcile with the scars; we do not recover from them. We reconcile with them. They are reminders of how we were split apart. As we try harder and harder to bring both sides of our wound closer together in healing, we must try to build on the small steps that will bring us closer to each other.
We pray to be closer to G-D. Being in G-D’s image means that we need to pray and to act to be closer to one another, in order to be closer to G-D.
Consider this excerpt from a prayer by Jaden Diamond:
Draw Me Closer to You
My tears were not laid to waste,
For with every shudder of my weeping was a prayer,
A psalm that could not be sung without tears. …
My soul cried out,
My bones trembled …
My lips opened,
I said a prayer,
Draw me closer to You.
Now I stand before You,
Closer now than ever before,
Amen. (May this be our amen also.)
Barry Pitegoff is a Staff Chaplain at Bon Secours Community Hospital in Port Jervis, New York. Barry enjoyed thousands of hours of volunteer chaplaincy at hospitals, hospices, and prisons while he was vice president of market research for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism board. After retirement, Barry transformed into professional chaplaincy by taking a second Master’s Degree and two years’ of hospital internships. Barry was awarded the title of BCC, Board Certified Chaplain at the May 2019 conference of the NAJC (Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains). In 2020, Chaplain Barry was elected to the Board of NAJC, serves on Chaplain Review Committees, and facilitates a monthly national video call of Jewish hospital chaplains.