Mar 25, 2010

Mythic Compassion

Mythic Compassion
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

with overflowing gratitude for my wife
______________________________


"A religious [person] is a person who holds God and man[kind] in one thought at one time, at all times, 
who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, 
whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair."
– Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, z"l


How could it be otherwise?  What kind of God would wish for passion to be limited to the Divine-Human relationship?  If all people, every person, is created in the Image of God, then isn't interpersonal compassion an act of worship?  Isn't earthly justice a validation of God's creation?  Otherwise, Yehudah Amichai z"l made the correct accusation:

I, required to solve riddles against my will, know
That were it not for the God Who is Full of Compassion
There would be compassion in the world
And not only in [God]. ("ilmalei ha-El malei rachamim")

How can one image of God suffer (let alone cause) harm to another image of God?  And to those who draw a clear line between God and humanity, a response is clear in Deuteronomy:

If a person is guilty of a capital offense and is put to death, and you impale them on a stake, you must not let the corpse remain on the stake overnight, but must bury them on the same day. For an impaled body is an affront to God: you shall not defile the land that the Adonai your God is giving you to possess. (Deut. 21:22-23)

A human being's body may not be treated poorly for that must be seen, as Heschel taught us, as treating God poorly.  We are commanded to hold God and man[kind] in one thought at one time.  That requires an integrated religious sensibility unlike many approaches, which compartmentalize "the holy" away from the world. 

May we not misperceive dividedness when the sacred is right here. Waiting.

---
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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-- menachemcreditor.org

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