William Hamilton

Do we have an agreement?

“I remember the horse I took care of.” A middle-aged father and husband told his therapist. He’d grown up in an abusive home. His one surviving parent was addicted to alcohol. Yet some of his earliest memories were of the care he gave. We feel better about ourselves when we help others. Although self-help is important, helping others can be vital. 

This week’s Torah portion includes an interesting piece of advice, “You shall be wholehearted in your relationship with (eem) the Lord your God” (Deut. 18:13). What if this verse is less a recommendation and more of a promise. What if it’s a promise about belonging, suggesting: when you’re with, then you’re wholehearted

A hot fudge sundae says: enjoy. Your spirit may respond: Delicious. And, I also have another trust. In life, we seek not only the pleasing, but also the redeeming. There’s nothing wrong with pleasure. But when pain visits, it’s ceiling can seem too low. 

I recently asked a fellow-learner how can you tell the difference between the pleasing and the redeeming? She suggested, “Maybe it’s when your life is being mirrored by something lasting.” I liked her answer. Then she added, “When you bond with the lasting, you can reach beyond acceptance toward a spirit of agreement.” 

I love this notion of agreement. It’s not a legal answer to the question, “Do we have an agreement?” It’s a faith-based one, that flows from keeping company with the lasting.

As summer draws to a close, as pencils are sharpened and goals are set, it’s a good time to ponder your association with that which is lasting. A new season now whispers, rise and shine. It brings with it an air of expectation. Not the nagging kind, but an inviting one. 

Consider this: Is it probable that beauty and flowers, music and meaning, love and companionship, all come from something lifeless, inferior to you and me? 

May God’s tender care settle upon you, like a brook that holds the sky. And may an ocean of calm steady you as you prepare to meet whatever the New Year brings. 

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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