Marriage of Necessity or Marriage of Substance

We don’t make our best decisions when we’re in pain, or when we’re angry, or when we’re afraid, or when we’re confused, or when we’re exhausted.  So too when we are filled with cynicism.  Four precious souls, whose lives were so ruthlessly cut short this week, have been laid to rest.  How then, when we are ready to rise from the bench of mourning, do we rebalance to an emotional stasis that makes our decision-making and our deeds more faithful and fruitful?

Israelis excel at resilience and at short-term remedies like Iron Dome protection and tunnel detection technology.  Long-term cures are more elusive.  Yet this does not mean that we lack familiarity with enduring lessons.  The Prophet Hosea this Shabbat evokes values that can prove restorative.  “I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, lovingkindness and compassion; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord” (Hos. 2:21-22).  Perhaps each of these qualities can work to rebalance us when we’re struggling.  Confusion is clarified by righteousness.  Anger is calmed by justice.  Exhaustion is freshened by lovingkindness.  Pain is mitigated by compassion.  Fear is quieted by faithfulness.  And cynicism recedes where knowledge of God abides.

Collective rebalance as a People is a more complex task. Yossi Klein Halevi recently captured our generation’s challenge: to retain the integrity of the Jewish story of the 20th century in our 21st century.  As we do so we are also called to compose a new chapter.  North American and Israeli Jewry, each surrounded more by love and hate respectively, might want to write differently.  Yet each community needs the other to fulfill the twin Jewish missions which blend inward authenticity with outward blessing.

Erica Brown has recently spoken of the need to transform our ‘marriage of convenience’ into a ‘marriage of substance’ – a substance animated by shared learning, growing, curiosity, and wonder.  We collect as a People around a Mt. Sinai that is less place-based than it is time-based.  We count days and measure moments toward the affirmation that time works best for those who know, in kind, how to work with it – by imbuing it with meaning and sanctity.

Some communities have a Shavuot tradition to read a Ketubah (marriage agreement) prior to reading from the Torah scroll on the Festival that celebrates the anniversary of the Sinai revelation. There is a version of the Ketubah that marries our People to Torah.  When we share Torah-lessons that instill righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, compassion, faithfulness, and Divine will, we feel restored and more aligned.  May the memories of the fallen continue to bless.  And may our embrace of Torah values rebalance us personally and restore us collectively in the 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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