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Reb Lisa's Message

November 16, 2022

We are loved by an unending love.

Rabbi Rami Shapiro riffs on this idea in his alternative version of Ahavat Olam, a prayer we chant on Friday nights. Ahavat Olam is a prayer that speaks of God’s eternal love for us.

Rabbi Shapiro’s poetic rendering reminds us that even though we cannot see or perceive God as human beings, the Divine presence supports and guides us nonetheless:

We are supported by hands that uplift us

Even in the midst of a fall.

We are urged on by eyes that meet us

Even when we are too weak for meeting.

We are loved by an unending love.

God appears in beautiful and mysterious ways. We have felt that here at CBI, after our community was the target of antisemitic hate two weeks ago. Messages of love and support and comfort have come from far and wide.

As the Spiritual Leader of Congregation Beth Israel, I have received so many of these messages and gestures. People have reached out by phone, text, email, Facebook messenger, Facebook comments, face to face interactions. Messages have come from as close as friends in the neighborhood, and as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, New York, Ireland, and Israel. This past Saturday as part of my drash, I shared heaps of these messages with the congregation. They are not meant for me alone, but for all of us.

I wish I could have read them all, but it would have taken at least an hour, so I shared a sampling. Before I read them, I asked the congregation to relax and open their hearts. Even if the messages felt repetitive, I urged them to let it all sink in. It is important to hear positive, loving messages over and over–to counteract the hate and negativity of an extremely harmful boundary violation. It’s an inoculation against evil.

The rapid rise in antisemitism is alarming. On a parallel track, celebrities stoke the fires of antisemitism through overt acts of hate speech, and through more subtle narratives and comedy routines that amplify Jewish stereotypes. All of this in the ethers normalizes anti Jewish tropes. This is dangerous. It also takes a gigantic toll on the Jewish psyche.

We must protect ourselves and not let the virulence of the hate told hold in our hearts and minds. Part of how we do this is to speak out and educate those in our sphere of influence. Simultaneously we must take in the love and support all around us. It is important to join arm in arm with those who stand in solidarity with us. We can also lean on those who stand with us, those who have our backs.

We are working on a project to publish and post all the supportive messages that have come in. Our goal is to put them in a place where they can be easily read at CBI. We need to be reminded of the goodness in the world. We need to feel God’s presence coming to us through the supportive actions of kind people, as Rabbi Rami Shapiro reminds us:

Embraced, touched, soothed, and counseled,

Ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices;

Ours are the hands, the eyes, the smiles;

We are loved by an unending love.

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