Thursday, October 12, 2023

Love and Hate, War and Peace

Ecclesiastes teaches that there is a season for every experience under heaven:

Eit leh’ehov v’eit lisno, eit milchamah v’eit shalom
A time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace

But in this confusing, terrible time that we, the Jewish people, are living through right now, when it so often feels like we are experiencing all of these conflicting things at once, both God and the devil are in the details: love, hate, war, peace—which one, when, in what proportions, and how do we hold them, and ourselves, together? 

We arrive here united in grief, upset, and anger—and, I suspect, already divided in our thoughts around what happens next.  Being Jews, on that question, we must live with incongruities, both in our community and even, or especially, within our own hearts.  

Because in a world of no good options, we must seek solace and support in one another.  The Talmud teaches: 

"A person should be distressed together with the community. As we found with Moses our teacher that he was distressed together with the community, as it is stated during the war with Amalek: But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat upon it (Exodus 17:12). But didn’t Moses have one pillow or one cushion to sit upon; why was he forced to sit on a rock? Rather, Moses said as follows: Since the Jewish people are immersed in suffering, I too will be with them in suffering, as much as I am able, although I am not participating in the fighting. The baraita adds: And anyone who is distressed together with the community will merit seeing the consolation of the community."

And so we gather, to offer our prayers and songs and meditations in a way that embraces, or at least holds together, all of the contradictions, the paradoxes, quarrels and questions that are part and parcel of this badly broken world.

We will pray for peace, for shalom—and for victory over Hamas, whose evil has been laid bare by their barbaric deeds

We will pray for the innocent civilians in harm’s way—and for our Israeli soldiers who must fight in the most perilous of places against a foe that uses those civilians as human shields

We will pray for those held hostage, for their quick and safe return, even as we acknowledge the cost and danger of negotiating with terrorists.

We pray for wisdom and strength, compassion and justice.

And we sing, because we can all sing.

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