My work is predicated upon the value and possibility of really listening to the ‘other’, and, in doing so, hopefully bridging religious differences. These days, the horror and violence of the war between Israel and Hamas both commands attention and is overwhelming. My heart grieves for all the innocent victims. My mind struggles for focus. My soul feels dispirited.
My heart grieves for all the innocent victims. My mind struggles for focus. My soul feels dispirited.
How can I carry on? How can I continue bridging differences given the daily reminder of such long-standing and complex problems?
Besides doing my best to grasp the situation, I see three options. One is to help where I can: donate to charities and check in with friends. A second is to turn to meaningful religious rituals. Continuing my weekly practices grounds me. Being in community provides a place for sharing, belonging, atonement, and healing. A third is to use my podcast as a forum for learning and reflection. At the close of my recent podcast episode, Flipping the Script with Beatriz Nour, she asked me: “What is your source of hope?” To which I replied: “Given the difficulties in our world these days, my sense of hope is that I see acceptance [of others], and social justice work, learning, and striving to improve the world and ourselves.”
In another episode, this time with Rabbi Molly Karp, we touched on a similar point, Tikkun Olam, a Jewish term meaning “to repair the world”. She expanded my understanding of the term, saying:
“Tikkun Olam is the Lurianic phrase [after the Kabbalist Isaac Luria] for restoring all the divine sparks. It means repairing the world. We repair the world by making God whole again. And, so, what that means is that as I go through the world, I must be kind to others, to the best of my ability.”
In my research and podcast on how Jews, Christians, and Muslims live their religion, I strive to learn about and from each individual in order to understand that person in all of their complexity and uniqueness. That said, focusing on a religious tradition in times of war can seem fruitless. But, for me, it provides stability and a way forward. This is what I can do now with the spark of God in me. I am looking for the humanity and sparks of God in others. The God in me sees the God in you.
The God in me sees the God in you.
In these times of conflict, I am painfully aware of the challenges and risks, the inclination to be defensive and indignant, to harden our hearts. Listening with curiosity and compassion is challenging. Injury is possible. I believe that a conversation done with care is worth the risk. A prayer we say at the end of conducting a Tahara, the preparation of a Jew for burial, comes to mind:
“[Name of deceased], please forgive us for any indignity that you may have suffered at the hands of this Chevra Kadisha (holy society) in our efforts to usher you from this world to the next. We acted in good faith and did this work for the sake of all that is holy.”
My intention is consistently to learn, to understand, to help where I can. Speak to me when you have words of knowledge, of personal truth. I am listening. My mind is hungry. My heart is open.
May we all go in peace.
Click here to listen to Meli’s episode with Beatriz Nour (#51).
Rabbi Molly Karp’s episode (#52) will be available here on 26 October 2023.
Thoughts? Send comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you! Méli
 Richard Light. To Midwife a Soul. P 40 (2016)