During this time in the service, I will give a sermon. And sometimes one runs out of words. So instead, I'm choosing to, share the words of my beloved mentor, my beloved friend, a wonderful, wonderful rabbi of integrity and love and joy and deep sensitivity and intelligence, Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steen, who wrote this week,
More words, maybe too many.
For now, all I feel able to do is write. For the first time ever, I felt unable to read these words from Anne Frank. I chose not to read them out loud at a vigil because I could not articulate the last line. The words of wisdom which I have continually turned to at times of pain and suras, , I could not repeat, and I feel deeply ashamed and worried.
From the diary of Anne Frank, that's the difficulty in these times. Ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us. Only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and so impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
I still believe that people are really good at heart. If Anne Frank could write these words, a young girl in hiding from the Nazis. Why could I not say them? Here is a piece I wrote in response to my hesitation.
There are extremist voices amongst us, or even perhaps within us, that speak only in the language of revenge and of winners and losers. They have lost the connection to something precious, that of love, that of the reality. That each one of us, every single one, is created in the divine image. Uniquely, messily filled up with the potential for holiness.
They would have us believe that there are sides, that some blood runs redder and thicker than others. So stuck in their pain that they have lost the one primary gift of humanity, that of empathy. They trick us into fearing one another when the real enemy is hate itself. Trapped like wounded animals they can only think of past harm perpetrated and cannot dare to imagine a time where weapons are laid down and sleep comes easily at night.
Whatever goodness there was or is has become so deeply buried and poisoned. And love seems impossible. Those voices whisper to us, luring us into their web. They would laugh at the idea that people are ultimately good. They would have us believe that there are goodies and there are baddies, evil and good.
To hold onto a vision of peace through empathy seems naive. Impossible. Foolish, even. For let's be honest, the path of peace is the hardest. It asks that as we sit here in immense pain, we make room for the pain of another. In the face of unimaginable terror, torture and killing, it asks us to make room for someone else and their hurt.
To open up rather than close up. To be vulnerable when all we want to do is hide or attack. To name harm done and make repairs. It means trying to believe in Anne Frank's word that despite everything people are really good at heart. Her words mean that we must not lose connection with those around us.
Not fear difference or be so defensive that we cannot see things from another perspective. It means that justice is demanded for those lives lost and those missing as justice understands that life is holy for it holds goodness. These times, my hesitation, my rage, means that I, that we have a duty, a duty to try our hardest in days of grief, fear and overwhelm because of the dark and brutal violence to remember our own humanity and to listen to Anne Frank's voice more than the extremism ones within and without.
From her pen to action, from her words to a time of peace. May it be so, and we say, Amen.