Have we gone numb to the pain? As I write these words, countries on the other side of the globe are recovering from mass devastation. In Morocco, an historic earthquake took the lives of over 2,000 people. In Libya, a mass flooding event has claimed thousands of lives. This, following raging wildfires in Maui and a series of hurricanes here in the United States that took numerous lives. Such news comes as we continue to wake up to the tolls of war in Ukraine and civil unrest around our world.
Have we gone numb to the pain? Are we so beleaguered by the steady stream of bad news that we no longer are affected by tragedy? Are we so jaded by the vast amount of sadness and destruction in our world that our heart has lost some of its ability to feel compassion? Be honest.
During the coming high holy days, I wonder if we can return to a place of greater empathy. It is – after all – the season of return. Can we find it in ourselves to love each other once more? Can we feel the pain of a Moroccan family or a Libyan family, even if we’ve never met and they live an ocean away? Can we find a way to truly hear and see those in distress, no matter what they look like or the language they speak? Can we find a way to honor the impoverished, lift up the fallen and help those outside of ourselves and our inner-circle?
Living with compassion is about more than those suffering miles away. Can we validate and raise up those in our own lives? Are we so consumed with our schedule, our own needs, our own goals that we have no emotional space left for those we love? As our prayer book has us acknowledge on Yom Kippur morning: We sin before You, O God, when we ‘harden our hearts.’ We sin before You, O God, in ‘our failure to convey affection and respect.’ We sin before You, O God, in our ‘criticism, harsh judgement…manipulation.’ Perhaps these holy days can remind us to honor those in our lives with our kindness, our love and our most earnest devotion. Can we return to our spouse, our siblings, our friends with an open heart, with gratitude, and with openness?
Finally, have we forgotten how to show compassion to ourselves? Have we gone numb to our own being? Are we so hyper-focused on achieving everything, running around constantly and always doing it all, that we have forgotten to appreciate who we are and all that we are? Have you forgotten how to be gentle with yourself? Have you forgotten how much you’ve endured and how far you’ve come? As much as this season is about striving to do better in the coming year, I believe it’s also about thanking God for all the courage and conviction we carry with us and recognizing the ways in which we are blessed – and we are.
A prayer as we enter this sacred season together:
May these days bring us fulfillment and hope. May they bless us with peace in our heart and remind us once more of our abounding strength. May we ask hard questions. May we not be afraid to change, to grow, to try. May we find love and offer love. May we open our hand to those who need a hand and see clearly all that we bring to this world. May we remember. May we dream big. May we find healing. May we experience a year of blessing. Amen.