Our tradition teaches us that there is nothing as whole as a broken heart (Menachem Mendel of Kotzk). Our hearts are truly broken. Attacks on houses of worship throughout our world: Pittsburgh, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Poway, CA. So, where is the wholeness? The wholeness comes through strength and resolve to repair, restore, and reinvigorate.
Leviticus teaches us that what can be broken can be repaired. A broken heart can be repaired. The wholeness results from the acts that we perform to repair our broken world. How do we do this? I am not so arrogant as to suggest I have the answer. I do, however, have my own response that may resonate with you as well.
This week we read from Leviticus 19, also known as “The Holiness Code.” God commands us to be holy for God is holy. The path to fulfilling this command is immediately set forth: Treat people well! We are told that we must be fair in business. We are told that we cannot take advantage of the vulnerable. What’s more, we are told that we cannot hate another in our hearts and that we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
This is quite a challenging path. And yet, it is the path to holiness. It is the path of God. These verses caution us against bearing a grudge and taking revenge. They warn us against incurring sin because of another. And, we are warned, you must reprove your neighbor when you see them behaving badly.
We make our broken hearts whole again when we are able to travel this path. Even when anti-Semitism rears its ugly head and manifests in horrific acts of violence as it did this past Shabbat in Poway, CA. We must not succumb to hate; we cannot plot out our revenge. We must instead strive for holiness. We must work to fix that which is broken.
Here is what I want to do and what we can do together. Let us first make sure that we are on the path to holiness; treating the people in our lives with love and respect. This should be reflected in our face to face conversations, our texts, our email and our social media accounts.
Then, let us advocate for real change. Let us hold one another accountable for how we use our words and how we act. Let us demand that our political leaders hold themselves and each other accountable for anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic and white supremacist speech. We can also continue to push for sensible gun control with mandatory background checks. And, finally, we must demand from our local, state and federal representatives to provide the resources to treat mental illness.
This, my friends, is the path to holiness and the path to wholeness. I know that it is an enormous task. The teachers in Pirke Avot remind us that we are not required to complete the work; we are required to engage in it with fullness of spirit.
This Friday night we will include readings and prayers of healing into our Erev Shabbat worship as we honor the victims of the Holocaust and pray for the families of Poway, CA, the most recent victims of anti-Semitic violence. In our prayers, in joining together as a community of faith and hope, let us find the strength to create the world as it ought to be. For it is in this way we can truly feel the wholeness of our broken hearts.
Rabbi Paul F. Cohen, D. Min., D.D