Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A World Upside Down

Jennifer and I were out of touch over the weekend. We returned on Sunday evening to find (in the words of megilat Esther) an “olam hafuch” – “a world upside down." Our hearts are broken by the horror of what is still unfolding in Japan, and by the horror here in Israel of the Fogel family brutally stabbed to death. My experience of the past few days has been filled with extraordinarily painful images.
Doing something highly unusual in Israeli society, the grandparents of the Fogel family gave permission to the media to publish photos of the murder scene “so that,” they said, “the world will learn the truth of what happened to their family.” Those photos are on the internet. Other pictures with faces of the Fogel parents and children – including a 3 month old infant – are on posters in the streets, on the news, in newspapers. Like you, I have watched the terrible images on TV and the internet of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the continuing danger of the nuclear power plants in Japan. As I have walked the streets of Jerusalem these past few days, I have thought about how, in the past, very few people in history lived with the visual memory of what a tsunami looks like. Video recording didn’t exist; most of those who actually saw a tsunami died moments later. A few who survived walked through the world able to convey perhaps through poetry and myth the stark reality of such calamity. It is a distinctly modern experience to walk through the world carrying with us images of such terrifying power and awful destruction.

Our challenge as Jews and human beings who live with such difficult images is to let our hearts grow, not to replace but to add to the circle of those we care about. It is understandable that, for a time, we may need to shield ourselves from the unending stream of images from a broken world, but we may retreat only for a time. Then we must continue again to give and, in doing so, to be God’s hands in the world.

I pray God gives us each the strength to return to a world so much in need. May our hearts expand, our generosity increase. And, as we read the story of Purim again, may we be granted the vision to sense God’s hidden presence and behold a better day when the world will be made right again.


On a very different note, if you are interested in reading some thoughts on Judaism in the public square written by Rabbi Aaron Alexander and me - click here:

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