Tonight begins eight days of the Omer, which is one week and one day of the Omer. חסד שבגבורה, Chesed ShebeGevurah, Lovingkindness in Strength.
My meditations usually focus on internal work. Tonight, I contemplate the martyrdom of Lori Gilbert Kaye, who jumped in front of Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein at Chabad of Poway, saving his life and losing hers. I think about the deep discipline of Rabbi Goldstein, who tried to speak to the gunman and re-establish the calm in his holy sanctuary.
Rabbi Goldstein is the uncle of a dear friend of mine. I have always admired the depth of intention in the outreach work of Chabad. More people than usual were gathered in his synagogue today. On the last day of our major holidays, we say a special memorial prayer, Yizkor. This practice started during the Crusades — because so many of our people were murdered in Europe by Crusaders as they made their way towards Israel.
Lovingkindness in Strength is personified by Lori Gilbert Kay and Rabbi Mendel Goldstein.
Embody Lovingkindness in Strength
We embody Chesed Shebe Gevurah when we meet violent hostility with lovingkindess. When we recognize that no one ethnicity or religion solely carries the burden of intolerance.
Tonight, we enter the week of Gevurah, of Strength; which is also the week of דין Din, of Judgment. When Judgment is not tempered by Lovingkindness, it spirals off from the Divine, creating the סטרא אחרא Sitra Achra, the Other Side. This is how evil enters the world. It begins from a holy place, an emanation of HaShem, and gets twisted into the terrible opposite of holiness.
People with deadly hate still contain a spark of the Divine, though it is buried and ignored and has absolutely nothing to do with their actions. Each person contains worlds.
We must stand firmly against anti-Jewish hate crimes, white supremacists, and violent extremists from all ethnicities and religions. We must equally remember that it is easy to fall into conspiracy theory rabbit holes, given the nature of the internet. May we firmly protect ourselves, while following Rabbi Goldstein’s example and speak compassionately in the face of hate.
Years before the growing violence in holy places
Eight Days of Omer 2018 / 5778: Discipline in service of something beyond itself.
Eight Days of Omer 2017 / 5777: The pure essence of discipline is love.