I WON’T TELL YOU WHAT TO FEEL
Numerous times over the last weeks, I have been told how I feel about Israel and about
Palestine. Or the common variant, which begins “we all feel”, sometimes including “we
are all suffering from ….” Or “we all have friends and relatives ….”
These statements, in conversations and gatherings or on listservs or FaceBook posts,
are meant to reassure, I suppose. Reassure that I am not alone in my feelings or my
intergenerational trauma or my concern about friends or relatives in harm’s way.
Reassure that I am understood and stood with.
Yet no one can know what I feel or what you feel without asking. It is presumptuous to
assume that you and I are alike and are just like the speaker. So what’s the problem?
The problem is that we risk dividing our small community, risk making some of us feel
A through line of the “Torah of Chico”, as Reb Lisa has called our communal story, is
that we are small and diverse and yet strong and creative and amazingly active. We
are descendants of all sorts of people, from all sorts of places, with all sorts of histories.
Not a few of our CBI family have chosen to join the Jewish people, and not just a few of
our CBI family are not Jewish. We have various political views, and various aspects of
CBI life interest us enough for us to choose to invest our time, attention and funds. We
offer community to all of our community, fully accepting our differences. That is why we
are strong and creative and active. Each of us is not just needed. Each of us is
necessary to Jewish life in Chico.
With such diversity, assumptions about who feels what or has or lacks particular
histories or relationships are bound to be wrong at least some of the time. A wise
person (Richard Armour?) said “Look before you leap – the conclusion you jump to may
be your own”.
I will say the obvious (obvious to me, anyway). It is okay if you feel what we are told
everyone is feeling, and it is okay if you are not feeling that. If your personal or family
history means you do not share what we are told is the intergenerational trauma of
Jewish history, that is okay. Maybe you have different personal or family trauma, or
maybe you do not. It is okay to feel what you feel (or not feel what others feel) about
what is going on now in Israel and Palestine whether or not you have family or
friendship ties to the conflict and whether or not you have strong attachments to the
culture and history of the State of Israel. Note that I am talking only about how we feel,
our emotional states. I am not making any sort of argument about facts or about moral
equivalency, or about any of the other things that have so quickly sparked arguments
and resentments recently.
I have made the case for not making assumptions and not being prescriptive in our
interactions. And yet I believe there are some things each of us can do, each in our
own way, right now. Listen. Love. Be patient. Try to see the face of the Holy One in
every person you encounter. “Seek peace and pursue it”, and when you believe you
know the only path for that consider that there may be alternatives. Remember that no
one can ever do only one thing (i.e., there always are additional consequences, not
always the ones we anticipate). After what is coming in the coming days, weeks and
months, it still will be necessary to seek and pursue peace, and the possible paths to
peace still will be opening before us. Listen some more.
With blessings for a week of safety and community,
החזן שלמה זלמן עיט בן מרדכי מרגלן