William Hamilton

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?

In Robert Mackesy’s touching book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse, the boy asks the horse, “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” “Help,” said the horse. It’s a moving response. It’s also a call. Yes, it can feel like a cry. But it’s also a call that lifts heads. All of them, especially the person doing the calling.

The horse then adds, “Asking for help isn’t giving up. It’s refusing to give up.” 

Animal offerings can come in many forms. We treasure the companionship of pets, the calm of a fish tank, and the lift of a majestic bird taking flight. Companionship, calm, and a gentle lift are all things we could use these days. 

Even before we get into offerings contained in the Book of Leviticus which include grains and vegetation, there’s something subtle in the first words found in this week’s portion of Torah.

The opening verse features three different Hebrew words for talking: call (kara), speak (da-bare), and say (amar) (Lev. 1:1). The latter two command attention and create worlds. But the first, call (kara), commands my attention this year, offering a glimpse of a helpful worldview. 

The word call is the most response-friendly word for talking. It’s inviting. It’s two-directional. When it’s effective, it’s sort of like tossing a beach ball back and forth. 

Calls for help get answered in lots of ways. As we approach Passover, a new-for-me Passover booklet (Haggadah) this year includes a cup of coffee to awaken our attention to troubling trends that risk being normalized. Wake-up calls can jar us. They can also stir us. 

“We don’t build trust when we offer help,” says optimist Simon Sinek. “We build trust when we ask for it.” When you ask for help, you not only express your need. You also invite somebody else to meet it, by fulfilling their purpose.

My favorite moment in Macksey’s heart-warming book comes near the end, when the boy says to the horse:“Sometimes I think you believe in me more than I do.” The horse replies, “You’ll catch up.”

I can almost hear God saying something similar.

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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