Recently I shared excerpts from, and links to, a handful of my favorite posts from early in 2014. Here's the next installment in that series.
Ethan makes the case that homophily -- listening only to people like ourselves; that phenomenon referenced in the saying "birds of a feather flock together" -- can make us ill-informed about the world. Being a rabbi, I'm inclined to frame that same truth in religious terms. I think we have a religious obligation to broaden our sphere of understanding. Every person in the world is made in the divine image. No matter where they're from, or where they fall on the political spectrum, or where we might agree or disagree.
We never really know all of what's arising in someone's head and heart, or what anxiety or sadness they may be carrying. A fear, a difficult diagnosis, distance from a loved one, regret... we hold a lot of things in our hearts, and many of them are not easy to sit with. // In such a situation as this -- and this is the situation in which we all live, whether or not it's particularly acute at any given moment -- what could be more important than being kind?
-- Be kind
Stories are always interconnected. I can't tell the story of my life without at least touching on a lot of other people's stories: my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, my spouse and child, my friends. I'm tremendously grateful for that. I have a sense for how fortunate I am to have a life which is so rich in connections. And sometimes those connections mean I need to think about what I write and how I share. Not everyone favors the spiritual practice of living one's life in the wide-open. And not every story is mine to tell, even if it impacts my story in a profound way.
Our leader offers the teaching from Bawa that one should seek with every breath to say a prayer asserting that there is nothing else but God. And I think: kol haneshamah tehallel Yah, "let every breath praise You." And I think of the meditation practice which maps the four letters of the Holiest Name onto every breath: before breathing, yud; inhale on heh; hold the breath vav; exhale on heh. And I think: ein od milvado, "there is nothing else but God." I think: our traditions have this in common.
If being in your usual online spaces is giving you more anxiety, or more grief, or more anger than you can comfortably manage, give yourself permission to step away. (Or if you need permission from outside yourself, consider it rabbinically granted!) Keeping up with every latest update -- every news bulletin, every blog post, every Tweet and status update -- may help us feel informed, but it doesn't necessarily help us emotionally or spiritually. Guard your own boundaries however you need to do.
Reb Zalman could be very serious when the moment demanded, but he was frequently merry when he taught or when he led davenen. His eyes twinkled. He laughed a big beautiful belly laugh. He sang often while teaching -- lines of psalms or prayer, quotations, references, which were almost as likely to be in Arabic or Latin or Greek or Sanskrit as they were to be in Hebrew or Aramaic. He held an enormous wealth of kabbalistic and Hasidic teachings in his mind and was able to draw them forth and speak them in contemporary language, using metaphors which reached us where we are today.