William Hamilton

Rebuilding Trust

“The most important ingredient in all vaccines is trust,” notes Global Health pioneer Barry Bloom. Distrust has become so normative, so commonplace, it barely even merits a mention anymore. 

Yet there is something we learned at a Tel Aviv dinner a couple of weeks ago that feels worthy of note. Terrorism’s three desired outcomes, according to Michal Cotler-Wunsh are: fear, despair, and distrust. By these standards, terrorism is wildly effective these days. For now, let’s focus on distrust. Can trust be rebuilt? If so, how? 

To be clear, we’re not talking about killers or their menacing-champions who now seek to contaminate logos of respected Health Insurance companies (note ongoing efforts to alter the colors of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois). 

Rather, we’re considering distrust that’s afflicting relationships that should be in better health. Relations with your neighbors, with your colleagues and cousins, those who are unsuspectingly carrying forward false claims. They don’t do so with ill-will. Still, their confidence can feel like a thud on your solar-plexus.  

This week’s portion of Torah finds the Hebrew word for eternity (Tamid) appearing seven times. Seven is a number that indicates holiness. That is, what’s dear to God. At the sacred-center of the seven mentions is a verse that talks about how leaders carry their flaws. It uses our word (Tamid) to mean always. “The headpiece shall always be Aaron’s forehead, so he can remove sins arising from holy work” (Ex.28:38). To put it bluntly, leadership failures are kept front and center. At all times. 

This isn’t designed to be manipulative. It’s intended to reveal vulnerability. If sacred leaders have vulnerabilities, we do too. Worry about anybody who says they don’t. 

Our dear friend and educator Chaim Peri offers a way to rebuild trust in honest get-togethers. Show them your wounds. Show them where you are bleeding. Again, not to be manipulative or exact concessions, but simply to be candid and forthright. 

If you’re like me, you’re moved when your attention is affixed on human pain. Open wounds can open you up. And when you meet them tenderly, trust begins to collect. 

May the rising tide of the sinister soon be slowed down by the precincts of the solemn.

About the Author
Rabbi William Hamilton has served as rabbi (mara d'atra) of Kehillath Israel in Brookline, MA since 1995.
Related Topics
Related Posts