William Hamilton

Let this be the Push

Tal Becker, architect of the Abraham Accords, has noted that victories in the Middle East look different. They’re not about thumping wins. Instead, they get measured by things like momentum and setting the agenda. 

Maybe this is a better way to measure things here too. The problem is that momentum seems to be going in the wrong direction. We don’t only face dark times. We face darkening ones. 

One of this week’s most alarming incidents, the violent attacks on Jews outside a Los Angeles synagogue, is but the latest example of a massive hate-crime, brazenly brought about by a lawless mob against our people. 

Judaism insists that we not let terrible incidents go to waste. Whenever and however possible, we roll up our sleeves, apply a lot of elbow grease, and do all we can to grant a devastating ending a different epilogue. To turn the end of one story into the middle of another one.

This week’s portion of Torah features one of the darkest, lowest points in our ancestor’s trek through the Wilderness: the failed expedition of the Spies. God could forgive a sin against God, like the Golden Calf. But a sin against the covenanted land was a self-inflicted betrayal too severe. It’s a covenant-shattering moment. How does Moses persuade God to forgive? With unforgettable words: And now, may God’s strength be magnified (v’atta, yigdal na koach adonai)(Num. 14:17). Let this be the moment when you, God, gather your might to be truest to your patient-compassionate essence. What follows are words that become essential to Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur. In sum, this darkest juncture generates ways, not without wandering and loss, that will lead to a healing capacity to become better company with events, with each other, and even with ourselves. 

Using a Summer of 2024 vocabulary, I’d translate this determination to not let darkening times drag us down to mean: let this be the push.

“And now,” may this be our push. Even as we wander and experience loss, may we do all we can to steel our spines and stir our souls to build a new momentum where healing and hope are more active.

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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