A Reading for the Days of Awe
A few years ago, I started corresponding with a man named Maurice, who for several years has been incarcerated at different federal facilities, most recently in Massachusetts. Maurice is in his early fifties, grew up in a Jewish family, knew he was gay at an early age, and assumed, as many did in his generation, that the Jewish world had no place for him. So he left, drifted, and eventually got into trouble. Several years into his sentence, he came across one of our rabbis’ teachings on GLBT inclusion and reached out to our community.
As a minimum-security inmate, Maurice has privileges that others don’t, including opportunities for community service. Maurice wrote to me earlier this year about the day, April 15th, that he found himself wearing orange prison garb and handing out bottles of water to runners completing the Boston Marathon.
Maurice wrote that he was close to the first explosion but was uninjured. He made sure the people immediately around him were okay and together they ran, not knowing if they were running away from danger or towards new danger. They just ran. Then the second bomb exploded, and again, Maurice and the people around him were not among the many injured.
He shared very powerful reflections on the event and gave me permission, and the privilege, to offer them here:
“Though broken inside, I am grateful. I have no frame of reference in which to place such evil. The only way I can deal with the emotions is acceptance. In the face of inexplicable acts, we are confronted with the possibility that rhyme and reason may not be on G-d’s agenda, yet there is peace in the words of Job, which remind us how little reason avails us when we try to understand the unexplainable. Job answered his wife, “Shall we receive good at the hands of G-d and not receive the bad?” Surrender moves us towards a wholeness and connectedness in which all things, good and evil, are divine, all part of the sacred gifts of life from our loving Creator.”
“I weep, I pray, I gasp for breath at times. Yet I know that all suffering belongs to some higher dispensation of mercy and justice and that G-d, the power that creates and sustains all things, including our very lives, doesn’t owe us reasons. It is the very dwelling in the wilderness of mystery that, moved by love and faith, we venture all to enter the sacred, to cross the threshold of the invisible and draw closer to G-d.”
“We do not have a say in all that befalls us, but we do have a say in our response. I do not know what my response should be. I am broken and sad, yet very grateful. My heart aches for those who died, those who grieve for them, for those injured and for all who are crying along with me. There is a connectivity in sorrow, and to open our hearts and our arms to those in pain enlarges not only the moment but it enlarges us, to the extent we are not dwelling just in the moment but within the whole of life.”
“In closing, I want you to know I love you; you matter to me. I am grateful for you. I urge you to take a minute today to give someone a hug, a kind word, a loving affirmation. May we all transform our world with love.”
If any of my readers would like to send words back to Maurice, he would love that. Just leave them in the comments, and I will include them in my next letter!