Healing and Peace

 In Mussar/Soul Traits/Character

Healing and Peace

Rabbi Bonnie Koppell


Tonight we come together to pray for healing for our beloved community.  We have been through an incredibly challenging time in the history of our congregation.  We are breathing in a spirit of peace and the deepest hope that we can move forward with a spirit of unity: of caring, of kindness, of forgiveness.

There is a classic story of the person who is rescued after many years on a desert island.  As they give a tour to the rescuers, they note that they have two synagogues.  “You are one person alone on a desert island,” they reply.  “Why would you need two synagogues?”  Well- you know the answer.  “This is the one I go to, and this is the one I wouldn’t be caught dead in.”  When I think about this tale, I want to laugh, and I also want to cry.  The Jewish people are notoriously, “am k’shei oref,” a stiff-necked people.

We tend to argue for sport, and it has served us well in many instances, sharpening the Jewish intellect and providing a foundation for Jewish devotion to learning.  I think about Tevye’s line in Fiddler on the Roof.  Poor Tevye gets pulled into the middle of an argument.  He tells one side- “You’re right.”  Then he hears the other side and says, “You’re right.”  “How can they both be right?” the listeners question.  Tevye thinks for a minute and says, “You’re also right.”

It’s important to be able to see all sides of an argument, to be open to the possibility of learning from others.  Yet, when that argument descends into hurt, into disrespect, into anger, then it is not good for any of us.  Temple Chai has been through a very dark time.  Tonight is a good time for each of us to look deeply within, and take responsibility for how we may have been less than helpful in the way we have approached disagreements.  Especially with the High Holidays imminent, we acknowledge that healing will only come when we are able to change our attitudes and our perspective, when we are able to say we are truly sorry and to seek forgiveness from each other.

Have you even wondered why the mezuzah is placed on an angle? Rashi, the most famous Torah commentator of all time, wrote that the mezuzah should be vertical.  His grandson, Rabbenu Tam, thought that this was disrespectful.  Rabbenu Tam said, no, the mezuzah should be horizontal.  A major disagreement among major thinkers.  What to do?  How do we choose one side at the risk of alienating the other?  It was a real dilemma until 150 years later, when Rabbi Jacob ben Asher suggested the compromise that we all, now, take for granted.

His idea?  Put the mezuzah on a slant.  In this way we acknowledge each of our great thinkers perspectives, and no one is dismissed.  A compromise.

And now- every time we enter our home, we look at the mezuzah, we are reminded of God’s presence inside our homes and out in the world, we honor it with a kiss, and we remember that the best way to bring about holiness wherever we go, is by remembering the fundamental value of compromise.

It is time to put our hurt and our pain and our anger aside.  It is time for us to forgive.  It is time for us to open our hearts to each other with love and caring.  It is time for us to come together to create a dream and a vision that will move us forward from the desert to the Promised. Land.



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