What are we to do when life is confusing, frightening, and distressing? For Jews and those who follow the Jewish spiritual path with us, there is only one answer: Torah. Immerse yourself in the ancient wellsprings that sustained our ancestors, you will find that they hold you up too.
This week in parashat Hukkat our ancestors search desperately for water, that which we must have to sustain our lives. The lack of life-giving water drives them to violence and despair – much as the lack of life-giving learning throttles our own need to understand our lives, and to thrive.
Torah is compared to water, and the word in Hebrew for well – באר be’er – also means to explain, or interpret, Torah. Like the living waters of a well connected to a subterranean spring, many layers of Torah exist beneath the surface. In the same way, the ancient words of prayer and meditation are ever-flowing springs of nurturance for us when we return to them seeking life.
On this Shabbat, after an exhausting week, I offer you the meta-message of Torah in hopes that it will help you find strength to continue to see hope, joy and meaning: love the other as you would be loved. Love is more powerful than any other force in the universe. As inexplicable as it is necessary, in the hand offered to another or the random act of kindness gifted a stranger, we must love.
Spring up, O love, sing to it!
the well which our ancestors dug
which the leaders of our people started
with Torah, with that which supports life
A gift for you: a poem interpreted – doused with the meaning-giving lifewaters of the be’er – out of our familiar, beloved first paragraph of the Shema: another world is possible.
Say these words when you lie down and when you rise up,
when you go out and when you return. In times of mourning
and in times of joy. Inscribe them on your doorposts,
embroider them on your garments, tattoo them on your shoulders,
teach them to your children, your neighbors, your enemies,
recite them in your sleep, here in the cruel shadow of empire:
Another world is possible.
Thus spoke the prophet Roque Dalton:
All together they have more death than we,
but all together, we have more life than they.
There is more bloody death in their hands
than we could ever wield, unless
we lay down our souls to become them,
and then we will lose everything. So instead,
imagine winning. This is your sacred task.
This is your power. Imagine
every detail of winning, the exact smell of the summer streets
in which no one has been shot, the muscles you have never
unclenched from worry, gone soft as newborn skin,
the sparkling taste of food when we know
that no one on earth is hungry, that the beggars are fed,
that the old man under the bridge and the woman
wrapping herself in thin sheets in the back seat of a car,
and the children who suck on stones,
nest under a flock of roofs that keep multiplying their shelter.
Lean with all your being towards that day
when the poor of the world shake down a rain of good fortune
out of the heavy clouds, and justice rolls down like waters.
Defend the world in which we win as if it were your child.
It is your child.
Defend it as if it were your lover.
It is your lover.
When you inhale and when you exhale
breathe the possibility of another world
into the 37.2 trillion cells of your body
until it shines with hope.
Then imagine more.
Imagine rape is unimaginable. Imagine war is a scarcely credible rumor.
That the crimes of our age, the grotesque inhumanities of greed,
the sheer and astounding shamelessness of it, the vast fortunes
made by stealing lives, the horrible normalcy it came to have,
is unimaginable to our heirs, the generations of the free.
Don’t waver. Don’t let despair sink its sharp teeth
into the throat with which you sing. Escalate your dreams.
Make them burn so fiercely that you can follow them down
any dark alleyway of history and not lose your way.
Make them burn clear as a starry drinking gourd
over the grim fog of exhaustion, and keep walking.
Hold hands. Share water. Keep imagining.
So that we, and the children of our children’s children
© 2016 Aurora Levins Morales