William Hamilton

Drained or Filled up

How to respond? Today’s air is thick with indignities. So responding well seems to have become a life-skill. Let’s sharpen the question: How do you know when you’ve responded well?

A fellow-learner from our community offered me a metric this week. She suggested, “Perhaps you can measure the effectiveness of your response by its impact on you. Not on them. Does it leave you drained or does it fill you up?”

That is, does it leave you with the feeling like your compass-needle is spinning? Or perhaps you come away with clearer priorities, with fresh-firmness about your sense of purpose. In other words, Do you retain a strong sense-of-direction that points you toward your true-north? 

On this 10th Day of Counting the Omer, with Passover in our rear view mirrors, we’re about to come into a 10 Day period that holds unprecedented solemnity for our People this year. It begins on Sunday evening with Holocaust Remembrance Day. A week later, Memorial Day in Israel, already the Holy of Holies in time for Israelis when graves and memorials host tearful memories and devotion. It’s been said: Holocaust Remembrance is about the cost of not having a State. Memorial Day is about the cost of having one. 

The last of the 10 Days will be Tuesday, May 14th when Israel will mark her 76th Birthday. 

We’ve had some ok lead-up to prior Holiday observances since October 7th. We’ve gotten ourselves into the emotional space to focus on Hanukkah’s light, Purim’s danger, and on how this year’s Seder was different from all other years. I’m not sure we’re emotionally ready for these observances, focusing on the Holocaust, Mt. Herzl’s Military Cemetery, and Independence Day Picnic gatherings.

The portion of Torah this week begins with the words, “After the death.” Back in its day, it was speaking about the death of two of Aaron’s sons. Today, it also holds particularly raw resonance. 

Let’s take our lead from Israel’s young generation, our People’s most courageous and purposeful. Our IDF soldiers and Reservists. Soon enough, they’ll be assuming leadership offices. They already are the leaders of our People with their steady moral compass. 

How to respond? You’ll never know if it’s good enough for them. You’ll always know if it’s good enough for you. May it fill you up, particularly in the 10 Days to come.

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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