William Hamilton

The Way of Growth

“They killed 3 of the 7 Thai workers because they didn’t have enough room in the truck,” a survivor from a southern Kibbutz told our group. Another lamented, “How can you mourn for hundreds of people? I have so many unclaimed phone numbers on my phone.” 

The pain is still so raw here. And immense. Yet it’s also intimate. For example, the stories of what happened to you even on the same Kibbutz on October 7th vary quite widely. Depending on whether the killers entered your home. Shot at you inside your home. Set your home on fire. Or somehow, randomly left your house untouched. 

What is shared, however, is the remarkable capacity of individuals and communities of purpose, sometimes NGO’s and sometimes municipalities, to keep growing through their grief. 

This way of growth is alluded to in this week’s portion of Torah in the structural Tabernacle design. It relates to the posture of perimeter planks. Acacia wood beams are to be positioned standing upright (Ex. 26:15). The Sages offer a reason for their upright positioning: it’s the way a growing-tree stands upright (derekh g’dilatan) (Talmud Yoma 72a). Yet this is so much more than some botany lesson. It’s suggestive of how we relate to performing good deeds: in ways that generate growth.

Rigid planks can also contain pliable lessons. The way of growth’s lesson is this: durability doesn’t mean unchanging. It means lasting. And lasting thrives on adaptability.

Our experience here this week has shown us that our beloved State of Israel is responding to these incalculable losses in ways that feel less like a marathon and more like a relay race. Each week, different people are stepping up to help others in different ways. The baton is passed to whomever can carry it. When you have the wherewithal to do so, you do so. But when you’re finding it too hard, then somebody else will take it from you and keep you going. 

This is elemental to the way of growth. Self-improvement is never a do-it-yourself endeavor. 

As we collectively strive to bear up under weighty burdens, may we respond to the needs of others and let others respond to ours. As we strive to regain our footing, kindly rise, and make our way forward together.

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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