Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Omer 2017 Day 1: One Love

Day 1: Chesed in Chesed, Love in Love
One Love by Bob Marley

One love, one heart
Let's get together and feel alright

At the seders that we all just concluded, we were reminded yet again to "love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in Egypt." With this lesson fresh in our minds, we begin counting the Omer with love in love, an important opportunity to practice empathy. How can we relate better to others, understand their experiences, and welcome them into our communities? The Torah and Bob Marley suggest that our own experiences should inform our outreach to the stranger. Love is not finite, confined to our own families and communities; it is limitless and universal. So, let's get together and share our chesed.

As we were wrapping up and heading home from a fantastic first night seder with friends and family well after midnight on Monday night, someone was vandalizing our local Jewish Community Center and a nearby church. They spray painted slogans and symbols of hate that have shocked and saddened our community. This morning at services, instead of a traditional d'var Torah, our rabbi invited us to discuss the incident together as a congregation. How did it make us feel? How did we address it at our second night seders? On this holiday when we celebrate freedom from oppression and God's protection, how do we process the hatred directed at us?

Some expressed their disgust and the sinking feeling of seeing a swastika on our beloved community center. One woman suggested that the cowardly vandal is seeking attention and that moving on from the incident would deny the person the attention they crave. Another woman thought it was important to address the problem wanted to strike a balance between moving on quickly and condemning it in the strongest terms. Finally, we discussed the importance of supporting our community in times of trouble, recognizing that it was not just the JCC that was attacked and that the Haggadah's entreaty to "let all who are hungry come and eat" reminds us to extend our kindness to all who need it. Like chesed in chesed, this means not only standing up for our Jewish community, but our neighbors at the Little River United Church of Christ and anyone else in need.