Entering the Era of Compassion & Empathy

Entering the Era of Compassion  & Empathy

Written by: Cheryl Nayowitz 

We are all part of the human race, human family. This redemption, this change which we are going into, a new world, the next dimension, whatever you want to call it…

There is a Kabbalistic idea regarding hell.

One idea is that you can remove a portion of your hell by cultivating compassion, empathy, by being able to feel and to cry for other people’s pain. Ideally to be with other people in their pain. That measurement, of taking away from someone else’s pain, Hashem will take away from your own pain in hell.

I think this message is so beautiful and apropos for humanity right now.

I used to be very afraid of feeling my own pain. I have been going through many changes over the last two years. I’m very aware that feelings aren’t facts. A great analogy that was given to me, which I give over to my kids is that feelings are like nature. They come and go. This too shall pass. They’re not here to stay.  You are here to stay. Hashem has always been here. He stayed. Hashem is that backdrop to nature. When you see the clouds in the sky moving past, looking at the waves in the ocean, pre storm, or after a storm. The eternal is that you have nature, you have a planet, a reality. This is your Tzelem Elokim, it’s your G-dly image. Essentially that is who you are.

The author, Elizabeth Gilbert, shared an idea that your heart is who you are, and your mind is where you live. And these are the two things one must nourish. These words sit so deep within me. 

I have been walking around the last few days, triggered by a memory of my own, which is part of my own suffering and redemption. I started thinking about so many different people’s stories of suffering. Not only corona related. There is so much pain, death and loss in the world right now. So many tears have been poured out. 

It’s just time

Not just for a new world.

It’s time for so much compassion and healing to ourselves.

That we can cry, that we can feel, and that’s okay, cause we are human, cause we are no where near perfect. We never will be. Our perfection lies in our imperfection and in our will and in our efforts

This has been lost.

This is the message I want to share.

I feel very strongly about a lot of biblical prophecy. I am very grateful to live where I do, and to be part of it, in a live way. I beg and urge the following from my family members, friends, my community from the States. In terms of culture, NYC is one of the greatest places on earth. I always have a place in my heart for NYC, but Jerusalem is my home. I did not grow up religious. I did not grow up with anyone drilling me religiously in my brain. I did not grow up praying toward Jerusalem.  But from the moment I came here when I was fourteen, I just knew it. I only became observant closer to the age of nineteen, but that’s not the point. I’m Jewish. I implore you, the part of prophecy that is for the redemption of the entire world, all of humanity, is for Jews to return to Israel. I am saying this from my heart of hearts. 

I want to share another thing.

How do we mourn for our Holy Temple when it’s an experience that none of us have had in our consciousness in our lifetime?

I worked as a teacher at the Jewish Learning fellowship in NYU for five years after I graduated with the incredible Rabbi Yehuda Sarna.  I’m very grateful that he chose me as the only female on a staff of rabbis, with no actual reason to be there in terms of what I was studying then. It was an amazing experience I had, and I cherish the relationships I have from that period in life.

At the time, one of the staff member’s wife had a miscarriage, or maybe several. This couple did not have a child yet. It sparked an idea in a lecture I gave.  How do you mourn for something that you never had?  Like the Temple, which technically is in our spiritual DNA, but how do you mourn that? How does a mother mourn a child she lost that she never met?

Any woman who has experienced this knows that it is an indescribable pain, yet you never met that soul. You never held that baby. Or maybe you had a stillborn, and you held the baby you then buried. This to me is a story I can relate to, and it’s something I can think about.  And I and can mourn the Beit Hamikdash. and not having that universality.  And I can have empathy for the universe through this metaphor.

You can think about any loss you had, this will put you there.  It doesn’t have to be death. It can be the loss of an identity, of a fantasy, of an ideal. Whatever brought you to your bottom in life, and made you evolve and change.

They say we were taken out of Egypt from our cries and bondage. we should continue to cry out to Hashem right now.

And now from the Geula side of the story.

My 15 year old son came here when he was seven, in 2nd grade. it was a very hard transition for him. He was bullied. He didn’t just survive, he thrived. The other night we sat down to watch The Saturday Night Seder. Toward the end he said to me, “This is nice and all, but all these people are making fun of Judaism. It feels like they are making fun of being Jewish. They all seem so ashamed to be Jewish. It’s a weird kind Judaism.” Those moments for me, as an ‘olah’, brings me to tears. The question is, why universalism, why self-deprecating humor? Why can’t we find the greatness in all of us, in being assertive and owning who we are, regardless of an outside opinion? Only G-d knows what is in the hearts of man. 

Living here, getting a degree in an Israeli system, working through the government with secular Israelis, and living with Anglos in an agricultural, beautifully pastoral community, more urban style… this is a different kind of Judaism. I embrace it with open arms. It’s something you can’t put into words, you have to feel it on a physical level, you have to experience it- living here. If anything, I feel much more a citizen of the world being here- I feel more connected to all types of people here than I did living in NYC.

One more Geula story…

In my year of stage, I was working with a class of 8 graders. They had a story in their textbooks of Rosa Parks. They didn’t understand the concepts segregation or racism. They didn’t understand the bad word for African Americans. I was trying to explain to them, “It’s like the ‘k’ word for Jews.” Not one kid in a class of 35 Israeli students had any idea what I was referring to. They never heard that word. Neither did the teacher of the class. Not one person there had a story about their parents growing up in the Bronx being called names or having something thrown at them at Halloween. 

Can you imagine that? A population of Jews that have tons of their own nonsense, tons of their own issues, but they didn’t even know that word.

Could you imagine living in that reality?

It’s a very simple choice to make.

May the Geula Shleima, the complete redemption, come very soon

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