Standing tall

A word makes its first and only biblical appearance in this week’s portion of Torah.  The word, komemiut, means upright.  It depicts a posture of standing erect, unburdened by oppressive influences. 

Moreover, it captures a core purpose of God’s liberating us from Egypt.  “I am the Lord your God who brought you forth from Egypt, from being slaves to them, and I broke the beams of your yoke, and had you standing tall (komemiut)”  (Lev. 26:13).   

Standing tall may involve more that being liberated from coercive regimes.  It also alludes to being liberated from corrosive reflexes.  Frustration.  Bitterness.  Ascribing blame.  Poorly hidden contempt.  These reflexes feel too sovereign in our societies today.  What could it mean to be liberated from the yoke of negative emotional forces that keep us from being at our best?

How do we stand tall?  Never by boasting.  Excessive pride generates corruptive self-inflation.  Rather we stand tall by activating accountability and by gently making space for others to act in kind. 

Our prayers for Israel feature a yearning for God to “quickly convey us upright (komemiut) to Zion, Your sacred city, to Jerusalem, the sanctuary of Your Name”.  This Sunday we embrace the anniversary of the historic restoration of Jerusalem.  May we do so with a posture of uprightness. 

The Bible makes Jerusalem an essential emotional energy source.  “Elevate Jerusalem above the pinnacle of my happiness” (rosh simchati) (Psalms 137:6).  Beyond joy, evoked emotions often include weeping and yearning.  But the most prevalent emotion associated with Jerusalem is compassion.  A passion for compassion is elemental to standing tall (komemiut).

May a fresh light glow in Zion and may we all prove worthy of channeling its blessings.

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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