Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones or their homes due to hurricane Harvey, from Port Aransas to Vidor. Our hearts also go out to all those who suffered similar losses in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Florida, and Cuba. It has been a very difficult time for many of our friends and neighbors. If there is a bright spot in all of this suffering, it is in the unity, the sharing, and the caring that have been displayed during the storms and in their aftermath. People of all religious and political views have come together and worked together to help one another. Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians. Liberals and conservatives. Rich and poor.
It has truly been heartwarming and inspiring to see the unity that has surfaced as a result of the storms. Some have commented that it would be wonderful if this united front of sharing and caring would be the norm and not the exception. We all hoped that maybe it would keep on going. But the reality is that we humans find it much easier to focus on the things that divide us than to strive for the things that unite us.
The current PBS documentary, Vietnam, reminds us of the deep political and racial divisions that still beset us in the United States, years after they resurfaced in the Vietnam War. Very little attention in the film is devoted to the efforts of those who worked to bring about a just and lasting peace. It is almost comical to overhear President Johnson insisting to one of his advisors that we had to win something, that we needed to come up with some slogan that involved winning.
But the sad truth is that in war, or in any conflict, there are no winners. The only way that any of us ever “win” is when we are willing to do the hard work of making real peace, and that always involves asking for and granting forgiveness, making reparations to those we have harmed, and making a resolution for the future for a change in behavior. Sadly, we don’t see these things happening in our world today,
The following thoughts from Lisa Rappaport on the Jewish holy season of Teshuvah, which is happening right now, are very helpful: “A therapist friend of mine once said that 50% of a relationship is repair. This has become an indispensable mantra in my toolbox. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes, offend and hurt each other. We are humans and we are imperfect. We get frustrated, we get jealous, and we lash out. It’s normal and it’s expected. Good, solid relationships can withstand hardship. What our sages ask of us is that we get better and quicker at fixing what we messed up. Reb Zalman reminds us that God isn’t angry with us when we miss the mark. God is angry with us when we don’t take the opportunity to make that turn and fix it. Teshuvah. This is where a relationship is deepened and made stronger. This revitalizes not only our relationship but it revitalizes us too.”
“Perhaps the main point in all of life is to draw nearer to one another. What would it be like if our default mode was to err on the side of moving toward rather than away, tearing down walls, rather than building them up. Instead we so often hold onto anger. We bear grudges and seek revenge.”
“When we hold grudges, a part of us dies. When we erect walls and turn our backs, we cut off our ability to connect--when this happens, we are not truly living.”
Blessings and Peace,