To trust again

A month-and-a-half ago 180 Jews, Muslims and Christians sat together around a Seder table.  It was one of the most unusual Passover meals ever.  It took place in a Jerusalem Hotel.  They we able to join together because they were all infected with COVID-19.  The extraordinary story of Hotel Corona feels like a Jerusalem story worth sharing on this 53rd anniversary of the City’s restoration.

So many inspiring stories grew out of April’s remarkable quarantine setting – breaking down barriers and building unlikely friendships.  But the Seder for 180 almost didn’t happen.

It was feared that ultra-orthodox Jews – despite otherworldly weeks that saw the melting away of antagonisms between religions, cultures, and national aspirations – would still be uncomfortable at a pluralistic table, vulnerable to the threat of participants pulling out their phones to video the experience. So a barrier had been erected to split the room in half.  Amram and his wife, an orthodox couple in their late-60s, entered the room and began to cry.  All the  magic that Hotel Corona made manifest had succumbed to barrier-building once again.  Amram had to do something.  But he worried about inciting an argument which could also become a viral video.  He determined to begin removing the wall.  Just then an ultra-orthodox man jumped up.  But not to protest. Rather to join him in pushing the barrier away.

Mistrust.  It’s everywhere today.  People mistrust government officials, journalists, scientists, justice officers, business and religious leaders.  We judge so rapidly.  We’re like heat-seeking missiles locking onto malignant motives in others.

Often, alas, mistrust is earned and deserved.  But not everywhere and not all the time.

Prophetic passages associated with this Shabbat specialize in trust recovery.  Hosea’s tender affection guides our steps from the ‘valley of affliction to the threshold of hope’ (petach tikvah).   And this year’s passage that anticipates the new moon embraces the Bible’s most trusting  intimacy between David and Jonathan.

Can trust be rebuilt?  It can.  It involves taking the first step. This requires taking a risk. Amram found that risky step rewarded last month in a Jerusalem hotel.  May we find ways to take it when situations feel worthy of trust recovery and, in so doing, may we add faith to our world.

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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