William Hamilton

Our hand-made Jewish gifts

“The most dangerous thing for a nation or a people is to plead guilty to imaginary sins.” Thus proclaimed Ahad Ha’am, one of Cultural Zionism’s founders, a century ago. 

Of course, we do make mistakes and we do own them. A life-lesson we’ve long understood is this: failings don’t ruin us, trying to hide them does. The good news is that our IDF brings uncommon discipline, rigor, and seriousness to owning its mistakes that reach far beyond those who claim to watch over them. 

Still, we may know people who are struggling with self-doubt. Some of us may know such people especially well, because we meet them in the mirror every morning. Here’s a thought. Re-furnishing your inner life as a prideful member of the House of Israel, doesn’t come about by thinking or overthinking. It’s hand-made. It’s done with hands-on deeds. 

Some things are infectious. They’re viral. Contagious. Just being near them makes you catch them. This is true of ritual purity. Other things only enter your life when you act to make them happen. They don’t occur on their own. This is ritual holiness. This week’s primary portion of Torah contains a verse that distinguishes, “the holy from the everyday, the ritually pure from impure” (Lev. 10:10). Our verse also invites an appreciation of the difference between the pure and the holy.

Watch this touching 29-second example from earlier this morning of religious Jews helping religious Muslims complete a peaceful Ramadan observance in Jerusalem’s Old City. 

I was also quite moved by a colleague’s poignant article this week that reminds us of how much we love to dance around the Torah, braid Challah, and even disagree civilly. 

We need not grope around in the woods with a pocket-compass, when we have well-paved roads on which to make our way in this world. Our ancestors have paved our way. May our hands-on embrace of our uniquely Jewish gifts dispel doubt and add light to a world so thirsty and deserving of such light.

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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