A week unlike any other

This week I learned something. It’s something important. It’s what results from being unaware of the dangers of evil

We’ve always known the cost of indifference to evil. How silence can enable it, and how roaring approval keeps company with it. I’ve learned this week that nuance, while often helpful, in the face of raw evil is nonsense.

Wickedness must be proclaimed, confronted, and disabled. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “If a thought generates pride, indifference to people’s suffering, an unawareness of the dangers of evil – we know it is a deviation from God’s way.” Again, that last part (which I put in italics) has always puzzled me. Since the atrocities of last Shabbat, I am no longer puzzled. 

This week for our people has been a week unlike any other since the Holocaust. Evil’s altars are burning. Raging actually, in some settings. So how can we cope? How can we be here for each other and for so many throughout the House of Israel who are in such searing pain?

When words land like darts, when you feel punctured by something dispiriting you experience online or in-person, try the following: 1) absorb it, 2) feel its pain, let it sink in, 3) perhaps journal the feeling as a way of honoring it, then 4) go out and do something spiriting, maybe listen to a favorite song or take a walk in nature, even better, do something sweet for somebody;  lastly 5) perhaps later, once the dart’s sting has faded, you may want to talk about how it felt and what you might take away. If nothing else, you’ll show yourself – to yourself – as an agent of resilience. 

Your go-to spiriting wellsprings are so important. Our sacred Scripture offers us an emotional vocabulary (Psalms) and enduring stories for counsel. I’d recommend offsetting your necessary looks at your phone’s news feed, with a look at the spiritual goods that have sustained our people for thousands of years. 

This week we begin learning Torah anew at the opening chapters of Genesis. It’s remarkable how closely the portions track with our pain. By the end of this week’s portion (Gen. 6), with evil all around, God decides to bring a flood to uncreate the world. “And God was grieved in His heart” (Gen 6:6). But in the coming weeks, God will begin covenanting with people. First with Noah, then with Abraham. 

Goodness will get the last word. May you do your small part to make sure it gets the next one. 

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
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