Love Your Neighbor
The events of this week were extremely disturbing to watch and difficult to comprehend. The Capitol Building, great sanctuary of American democracy, was desecrated and defiled. Windows were smashed, objects were stolen, and lives were lost. Three days ago it was unimaginable that this could occur, and today, we are faced with the reality that it did.
We as Jews know what it’s like for a holy place to be defiled; for vitriolic rhetoric and actions to rear their ugly heads. We recently celebrated the holiday of Hanukkah, which commemorates just this, and there are countless similar events throughout our history as a people.
At the same time, as in the Hanukkah story, these acts of hatred did not prevail. Elected officials who were forced to evacuate later fulfilled their civic duty, as they courageously returned to the Capitol building that evening to finish what they had started. They were resolute in demonstrating that virtue triumphs over vice; that love conquers hate. What gave them this resolve and this strength? Perhaps it was these essential words from the Torah, Leviticus 19:18: Va’havta l’re’echa kamocha, Love your neighbor as yourself. As Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse said: "…If you're angry, I want to beg you -- don't let the screamers who monetize hate have the final word… Don't let them be your prophets. Instead, organize, persuade, but most importantly, love your neighbor. Visit the widower down the street who's lonely and didn't want to tell anybody that his wife died and he doesn't have a lot of friends. Shovel somebody's driveway. You can't hate somebody who just shoveled your driveway. The heart of life is about community and neighborhood, and we're supposed to be servant leaders. The constitutional system is still the greatest order for any government ever, and it's our job to steward it and protect it."
Sasse and the many other government officials and law enforcement agents whose lives were threatened this week returned to the Capitol on Wednesday evening because they have a responsibility to serve their communities, to be good neighbors.
Similarly, we at the J strive every day to serve our community—to keep bodies active, minds engaged, and hearts full. Now more than ever, this sacred task of community-building can move us forward and unite us. So, let us continue to look to the future for hope and to look down the street and be a helping hand. Let us take the time to pray for our country and to pray for healing. As Rabbi Naomi Levy wrote:
“Our charge today must be to rise above conflict,
To rise above our differences,
And welcome in a new time of understanding,
A new time of caring and empathy,
Decency and support.
Bless us God, with ears to hear,
Hearts to love,
And hands to reach across party lines,
So that we can ensure liberty and dignity for all.”
Olam Chesed Yibaneh. Let us build a world of love.
May we continue to be partners in this holy work.
Director, Bobbi & Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning