Daniel Geretz

In heaven, God cries

Shortly after his wife died, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888, Frankfurt am Main) penned an ethical will for his family. In his ethical will, Rav Hirsch expresses his late wife’s, as well as his own, joy and pride in each member of his family, and writes, “among you there is not one – male or female – who has caused us grief through your conduct, not one who is not counted among your fellow Jews with pride, not one who did not derive joy and happiness through the joy an happiness you caused us.”

Rav Hirsch goes on to make a single request of his family, and that is for them to remember always that they are part of the same family, and not to let differences come between them, drive them apart, and make them lose sight of the common bond that they all share. He writes, “I beg of you, remember us and do not wound one another; Remember us and forgive and pardon one another, ask forgiveness and grant forgiveness and do not hold a grudge in your hearts.”

Rav Hirsch was a strong and vocal opponent of Reform Judaism, as well as the nascent Conservative Judaism movement, and might have been seen by some as a polarizing personality. Rav Hirsch had a large family, and it is likely that perhaps one or two family members here and there were not in full theological agreement with Rav Hirsch. Nonetheless, Rav Hirsch makes an unqualified statement that implicitly includes in his family unborn generations yet to come. Rav Hirsch recognizes that a common familial bond and maintaining warm familial relationships trumps even profound theological disagreements.

As Rav Hirsch, so too God. God, through the Jewish people, introduced into this world the ideas of “ahavat hager” – willingness to affirm the other – and “teshuva” – personal responsibility, self reflection and the recognition that how we feel and act is more about what is going on “in here” rather than “out there.” God loves all people, regardless of race, color, or faith, and God despises the evil that is brought into this world when we fail to see the other and project our own faults and shortcomings onto that other.

God derives tremendous joy from all of God’s children; God expects all of God’s children to be able to recognize that our common familial bond transcends time, faith tradition, nationality, and political affiliation and to be able to treat each other with the dignity that each member of our family deserves. When one member of our family violates another – in word or in action – God in heaven cries. As do we all.

About the Author
Daniel Geretz grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is the founding rabbi of Maayan in West Orange, New Jersey. Daniel was awarded semikha by YCT Rabbinical School, and besides continuing to serve as the rabbi of Maayan, he works for the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ as a chaplain at Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, New Jersey.
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