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To Repair the World, One Spark at a Time

01/14/2020 09:17:29 PM


Vehayyei olam nat’a betochenu   … letaken ‘olam bemalkhut shaddai -  endless potential lies within us to repair the world through the power of malkhut.
These phrases are embedded in each and every prayer service, in the words of the Aleynu prayer.
We don’t just say it, we sing Aleynuit is up to us, through malkhut – sovereignty.
It was during their interpretive message on the Rosh Hashanah theme of Malkhut that two of our members issued a call to social action to members of ORH.
Up to us, it is, Yoda might say.
And yet. So many factors interfere, intervene, forestall us, side-track us. Feelings, questions, other important internal communal priorities. And then: if we do this [tackle one, enormous, pressing issue], what about that one? And then: can we really make a difference?
This is a both/and moment, if there ever was one. And there have been both/and moments endlessly.
Among the soundtracks of my adolescence (lots of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms mixed with the Beatles and the folk singers) was this little ditty – along with every other number from the musical Hair, which premiered on Broadway in 1968 – that begins: “Welcome sulfur dioxide, Hello carbon monoxide, The air, the air is everywhere.”
It served as a great companion piece to Tom Lehrer's Pollution, from 1960: “… don’t drink the water, and don’t breath the air.”
As it was then, so it is now: large, pressing issues, discussed, debated, investigated, perpetuated. Wet’suwet’en territory in BC. A BMO branch in downtown Vancouver. A kosher supermarket in Jersey City and rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York.  Australia.
Systemic injustice for our Indigenous communities. The burning, burning world. Dangerous expressions of antisemitism and attacks on many other communities linked by interconnected strands of hate-fueled ideas.
And it’s all connected.
When ORH members met earlier this month to identify issues, and priorities, it wasn’t necessarily to determine what we would do, but what we cared most about, in one of our member’s words: what keeps you up at night?

Our passions will fuel our effectiveness in learning, standing together, effecting change. Spiritual communities, synagogues and havurot of all shapes and sizes have, over the years, the decades and the centuries, centered the call to repair the world.

We know, are aware, of so much brokenness, and many of us individually feel deeply that it connects to our own ancestral experiences of injustice. Some of you have said this is what inspired you to take on some of the activities we have already been doing as a community, such as supporting a Syrian refugee family through the Shalom Group or being active with the Multifaith Housing Initiative. Now as a community, we are preparing to address how we might engage more in tikkun olam, how we might respond to the call to repair the world.
There is not one Jewish moment – or one human moment – that does not present the opportunity for elevating the sparks of creation. The mystics of Safed imagined that each act of hesed/loving kindness, each mitzvah, entailed picking up a piece of the broken vessel that was the shattering of matter at the beginning of Creation. I can think of no greater act of hesed this week than to express condolences to your Iranian neighbours, coworkers, or the coworkers or family members of those whose loved ones perished on a flight from Tehran to Toronto, via Kyiv.
I leave you with some songs for a shared soundtrack, beginning with a folk anthem from Holly Near:
There is hurting in my family
There is sorrow in my town
There is panic in the nation
There is wailing the whole world round, But
I am open and I am willing
To be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change
and ending with the song Olam Hesed Yibaneh we sang at the end of our meeting, composed by Rabbi Menahem Creditor:
I will build this world from love … and you must build this world from love … and if we build this world from love … then God will build this world from love.
- Rabbi Liz

Mon, July 6 2020 14 Tammuz 5780