|V’AHAVTA – LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF|
It is not how I imagined we would celebrate Passover…
but it was.
And we mourn.
As with every death, the moment comes when the hard work begins…the time we start to pull pieces of our lives together, to discover how to continue on, to begin the journey back to living.
That is our task. Towards that end, I share some of the words offered at the Interfaith Service of Hope and Unity held last Thursday at the JCC. Perhaps they will provide a path towards our return to meaningful living:
At this hour, just a few miles from this place, Terri LaManno is being buried. Andafternoon, Reat Underwood and his grandfather, William Corporon, will be laid to rest. We can barely comprehend the pain, the confusion, and the grief that consumes their families. They, like we, ask that unanswerable question: Why? Why did such tragedy befall three good souls? Why do bad things happen to good people? We don’t know.
And while each of us has a unique theology of life, mine tells me that God did not cause this pain. Rather, God – like us – is weeping for this loss. And God – like us – is silent in God’s own grief.
And yet, we know that silence will not heal the wound that has ripped our community asunder. For it is silence that allowed such acts to happen. Silence in the face of hatred. Silence in the face of prejudice. Silence in the face of fear. Silence is no solution.
Love. Love for each of God’s children. Love for who we are. Love for those who are wounded and weary. The Bible is clear in this message. In the book of Leviticus, we are commanded not once but twice, “V’ahavta l’reiecha kamocha” – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love your neighbor as yourself. How do we do that? It is not a narcissistic approach to life, where we give and do for others only that which you yourself would want.Rather, it is just the opposite: when we put ourselves in another’s shoes, and imagine what he or she needs…and we then are able to provide it…that is true love. That is when we love our neighbors as ourselves.
That is what Terri’s and Reat’s and William’s families need today. And it is what our community needs. We need to love each other as ourselves. We need to love life, love faith love people. For that is, as I have read and heard, who William and Reat and Terri were…lovers of life. And if we can love – if we can embrace the opposite of hate – then we stand together and we will be stronger.
There is an ancient Jewish tradition that when a loved one dies, we take a small stone and place it upon the grave. We do so in order to have something to do, some physical act of remembrance. And we do so, also, to remind us of our loved one’s values and hopes and dreams. I was taught a small twist of this tradition. Instead of one stone, take two of similar size and shape. Place one of the grave. And place the other in your pocket. Then, wherever you go and whatever you do, a small reminder of your loved is there – literally – in hand, to support you, to heal you, to guide you.
So, I invite each of us here to go to a field or a stream or a lake, and find a stone. Imbue in it the beauty of Reat’s and William’s and Terri’s lives. Hold on to that stone. Keep it with you as you love yourself. As you love your neighbor. As you love the stranger. In so doing, we will hope. We will heal. And we will fight against hate. We will be strong.