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Archive for the ‘Compassion’ Category

G-d, Distance and The Days of Awe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 17, 2007

G-d is Compassion. He looks at our efforts to rectify our ways during The Days of Awe. Even if it seems that while we are taking a hard look at ourselves and attempting to make changes, that He might be distant, He is really never closer than when we seek to correct what we have messed up, because that is when we need Him the most.

If He really was distant from us, then how can He say:

Isa 1:18

“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the L-RD; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

“let us reason together” – that is not the words of Someone who has distanced Himself from someone – it’s the words of Someone who desires to bring us through the work of self-reflection and honest assessments of our wrongs, our life stories and our doubts, walking side by side with us. At the end of that walk what used to be sullied, soiled and broken will be clean, pure and healed.

There’s midrash about a king who had a son.

The son had left home a long time ago after a fall-out with his father, and had moved a long way away from where he came from. The king, his father, sent out messages telling his son to come home. One of those messages  reached the son, and he responded “I can’t, it’s been to long and it’s too far to walk”. The King then sent another message saying “It doesn’t matter, you start walking now and I will meet you on the road where ever you are and we will walk the remaining stretch together”.

That’s G-d for us – meeting us on the way, walking with us and reasoning with us about what we have been doing with out lives the past year, so we can come to peaceful, healing and constructive conclusion on Yom Kippur.

Posted in Compassion, Distance, G-d, Isa 1:18, midrash about a king who had a son, The Days of Awe | 2 Comments »

You are a Good Man…

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 3, 2007

for helping people who you didn’t even know” (from the TV series “Jericho”.)

The saying “Charity begins at home” has been hammered into us to such a degree that the thought of helping someone who we do not know is seen as a mark of a Good Person. There’s something wrong with this picture.

Oh, I agree that Tzedakkah (Righteousness and Justice) cannot be practiced if it has not been taught from an early age, in some manner. But the intention of such teaching should be that the person being taught brings the very idea of Tzedakkah with him or her to others, regardless of relation, as a matter of fact. There’s nothing “Good” in the idea of Tzedakkah (or the less righteous/just idea of Charity) it’s just what it is supposed to be. Righteousness and Justice.

My guess is that people who extend those two values only to their loved ones or their specific community still do it out of a sense of Obligation – which in essence is not less than towards the Stranger. Doing what is my duty is not Good. It’s Righteous. And Righteous is what G-d expects of us.

So being “good” to anyone is what G-d is demanding of us. Let’s not get carried away by the idea that it’s enough to do tzedakkah to our own, and that if we extend it to those we do not know we are “good” – because that is a delusion.

““Justice, justice shall thou pursue!” (Devarim/Deut 16:20 – Parasha Shoftim)” and ” Ye shall have one manner of law, as well for the stranger, as for the home-born; for I am the L-RD your G-d. (Vayikra/Lev 24:22)

So we cannot, and should not, treat people differently depending on their status in relation to us, because to do so is a violation of our obligation towards G-d and men – to not violate this has nothing to with being Good. It is just the way things should be.

Posted in Charity, Chessed, Compassion, Parasha Shoftim, Torah, Tzedakah | Leave a Comment »

Broken Peace – Parasha Pinchas

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on July 7, 2007

One of the most powerful commentaries on Pinchas’ act is written into the very fabric of Torah itself. The Masoretes – the 8th and 9th century rabbinic sages who codified the written Torah into the version we know today – instructed that the word “Shalom” in the term “Brit Shalom” should be written with a broken letter vav. As a result, every Torah scroll now bears this inner message: peace achieved through zealotry and violence is an incomplete peace – a “broken peace,” as it were.For an era beset by growing violence committed in “the name of God,” this one small pen-stroke makes a profound statement indeed… From Radical Torah

I cannot help but feel that this ties in with what I wrote last year on Parasha Shoftim and Parasha Ki Tavo.

If a Peace achieved by zealousness is considered a Broken Peace by Torah itself, then it raises the question what is a WHOLE Peace?

Perhaps the answer lies in what Pinchas failed to recognize in his zealousness – Chessed – Compassion – Justice, the righteous punishment for a crime cannot be meted out without Compassion. A willingness to look beyond the actions of the other and consider all the details of his or her motivations, rather than assume the actions are all there is to a person, or a nation.

Perhaps we need to step away from “G-D” for a while and not assume that just because we read it in Torah it’s the entire Truth? Or maybe we need a new way of reading Torah?

Again I am reminded of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: “there is truth, the truth of the truth, and peace. Truth is: a kid stole an apple. The truth of the truth is: the kid was hungry. Peace is: Nobody stole anything; give the kid an apple!” (Heard from Reb Shlomo Carlebach)

Zealousness, like anger and love has a tendency to cloud our judgment. We are so caught up in the feelings of the moment that all we see is that something dear to us is being violated, and while Pinchas was right on principle, by the Letter of the Law, he lost sight of the Spirit of the Law, and that’s where his peace became a broken one – he forgot the truth of the Truth and Peace in his fervor for G-d.

In my later Blog Entries I have gone after Israel pretty badly. Quite honestly I feel that she deserves it. I love her, she is my Home, though I don’t live there, she is the one place in the World where I know I have a place, should I ever need it. But I also think she is way off base. There’s nothing wrong with her zealousness. She’s got Chutzpah alright – but she is forgetting Compassion. She has gotten stuck in the role of Pinchas, and while it might bring some sort of Peace and Salvation for the Jewish People, it won’t be a whole, lasting peace.

Shalom Shabbat!

Posted in Chessed, Compassion, Israel, Numbers 25:10-30:1, Parasha Pinchas, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, Torah, Weekly Parasha, Zealousness | Leave a Comment »

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