When 91-year-old Deana came to visit me, she came to find comfort and solace a year and a half after her beloved husband Alvin died – but it turned out that she spent more time teaching me Torat Chayim (the Torah of Life). In the process, she lifted both of us a little higher on the ladder of holiness.
Just opening your door is not a mitzvah; it’s a start. What happens after the welcome is what really matters. It’s the critical difference between being tolerated and being valued – that difference is everything.
I know we have a long way to go, but for this congregation, situated in the city just a few miles from the Old Court House where the slave Dred Scott lost his case for freedom, I have hope that we are chipping away at the racism that plagues us.
Professionally and personally, I have witnessed the beauty in how the “different” can bring together families, their friends and their Jewish communities. In particular, I was privileged to be part of the process as Aubree Bella became a bat mitzvah.
In the midst of the water crisis here in Flint, MI, Shapiro’s Delicatessen of Indianapolis – purveyors of exceptional Jewish foods since 1905 – traveled 300 miles to deliver a “We stand with you” meal to Flint’s Jewish community on the last Shabbat in January.
Inspired by Stan, our congregation's 83-year-old bar mitzvah boy, I’m thinking that I may not wait until I turn 83 to recreate some part of my entry into adulthood, according to Jewish tradition, on an upcoming Friday night.
By allowing ourselves to experience individuals who our different from us, we challenge ourselves to be better human beings. Had I given in to my temptation to return to my comfort zone that morning 22 years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
I believe that prolonged solitary confinement is a violation both of the Eighth Amendment, prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment, and a violation of religious ethics, which maintain that every human being is made in the image of God and thus entitled to be treated with dignity.