By Rabbi Bruce Aft
This week’s Torah portion is Bereshit, Genesis 1:1-6:8
As I write this, the Chicago White Sox have just clinched first place in the American League Central Division for the first time since 2008. So with this week’s Torah portion, baseball is front and center: “In the big inning…”
As we all struggle to deal with COVID, the greatest challenge I have faced is isolation. As I approach the first anniversary of my heart attack, I remember lying in a hospital room without my wife or any family or friends. Many of us have had similar experiences.
I also have interacted with numerous people on Zoom who are hungry for social interaction in person. I believe we are living in a world of increasing isolation where we find it difficult to interact with others unless we agree with them or they agree with us. As the old song says, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love… not just for some but for everyone.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks wrote:
“Creation of things is relatively easy; creation of relationships is hard. Look at the tender concern God shows for the first human beings in Genesis 2-3…. He clothes them both so that they will not go naked into the world. That is the God, not of creation (Elokim) but of love (Hashem).
“We have to create relationships before we encounter the God of relationship. We have to make space for the otherness of the human other to be able to make space for the otherness of the Divine other. We have to give love before we can receive love.”
A universal religious teaching reminds us that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. And yet, we see how much conflict there is in our world. Seminars abound in diversity, equity and inclusion. We struggle to fill our world with love. As we encounter those who are different from us or who share different views, we must respect their perspectives and not “cancel” them. We must engage with them and work to build meaningful relationships.
I believe that we must also work hard to bring love back into our relationships with others. This doesn’t need to be a romantic love, but rather a covenantal love where we share our humanity with each other as children of God.
Finally, one of the silver linings of Zoom has been the way in which we now say goodbye to our children when we speak with them. We say, “I love you.” (I didn’t used to do this.) It has been a special bonus that when I recently said, “I love you” to one of my grandchildren, they responded, “I love you more!”
Rabbi Bruce Aft is visiting scholar at George Mason University, Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution