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“Teach me all of Torah while standing on one foot, and I’ll engage,” challenged the outsider. Sent away by the teacher Shammai, Rabbi Hillel famously answered “What is hateful to you do not do to another. This is all of Torah, the rest is commentary, go and study.” This week the Torah challenges us all: “You (plural form) shall be holy, because I, God, am holy” Holiness, distinguished from the ordinary and profane – a noble goal, but how? By strange and mystifying rituals? By beautiful words. Those are not the pathways to holiness. As Hillel said, the pathways we must reject are those that are hurtful: don’t insult the deaf (though they cannot hear you) or fool the blind. Don’t elevate yourself on the blood of your fellow. In Boston’s tragic massacre this week, this is exactly what’s happened, and it profoundly savages our trust. If these are the “don’t” command, is there a positive path to a holy and beautiful life? Torah’s answer is among its most renown: Love your dear one as you love yourself. What’s love got to do with it? asks Tina Turner, “What’s love, but a second hand emotion?” Love is why we’d take a bullet if someone threatened our kid. Love sent rescuers running into the danger in Boston this week. Inspiring. I hope I have enough love in my little body to run to help another. I counter Tina Turner’s song with one from Jonathan Larson’s musical Rent. Although we could measure a year in our life in midnights, cups of coffee, or minutes, (525,600 of them), it’s far better to measure it in love. Maybe love really can be the answer. A community full of love is holy, much more than the sum of its parts.
Built or destroyed by the sum of our choices. I don’t know why the perpetrators of the Boston attack chose hatred and chaos, but I know that many others that day chose the incredible path of loving those near to them (just by chance!) MORE than they loved themselves for that moment. It reminds me that love can be the answer.


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