Shabbat Shalom: An open hand and an open heart

Apr 24, 2020 | Article

Shabbat Shalom: An open hand and an open heart

Dear JEWISHcolorado family,
When I was a kid, I loved playing with magnets in the sandbox. I’d use them to conduct search and rescue missions for missing toys. Sometimes, I’d take two and drive them toward one another until they snapped together, leaping over obstacles I carved from the sand, or I would use one to propel the other across the dunes of my making. In my child’s mind, I thought of each magnet as being two things: an end with the power to repel and an end with the power to attract. Of course, the two things—the two ends—were, in fact, one thing. 

In so many ways, the polarity of the magnet symbolizes the dynamics of our world. On one end is pain and suffering, illness and death; the other, acts of lovingkindness and compassion, generosity and affirmation. But both things are, in fact, one thing. Consider for a moment that, at one point during this global pandemic, four billion human beings were confined to their homes. And now consider the disparity amongst those four billion. How many were blessed to have a home? How many were homeless? Today, who is hungry and whose pantry is full? 

In our own community, on an individual level, we’re seeing an increasing need for financial support for basic necessities, and on an organizational level, I hear daily concern that some of our organizations may not survive this trauma. JEWISHcolorado launched the COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund to address our community’s needs, to bring together the two poles, one of which can—and must—provide for the other in order to make us whole. 

One of my favorite verses from our Jewish tradition comes from the Ashrei. The verse begins Poteach et yadecha: “You open Your hand, and Your favor sustains all the living.” Our hands, like magnets, are two things at once: the fleshy, sensitive palm opposes the hard, knuckled fist. Jewish tradition calls upon us to open the soft side of our hands, to expose all the humanity and humility that comes from knowing our own vulnerability and looking with compassion on others’.  

For the moment, we can no longer clasp palms when we greet each other, but this Shabbat, let us open them to the world.

—Rabbi Jay Strear