“Yes, me too.”
My sister, I am so sorry. How can I help?
“Just hold my hand. Just let me know you hear and believe me, and that you will help prevent these perverts – the ones we already know and the ones we don’t or pretend not to know – to not get away with it, ever again.”
Is this enough?
Multiple testimonies and conversations keep coming on my feed and in my inbox, from friends and strangers, and from many who are affiliated with Lab/Shul. Written, spoken, whispered, shouted, in tears, with rage, brave and bold and haunting. For some it feels too late or too little, for others too much or too private. Many of us, men especially, pause in the presence of the enormity of hurt, the number of people in our lives who now stand up to break the silence and be counted: #MeToo
This past Friday we saw another outcome of this wave of truth telling as a leading Jewish thought leader and journalist, accused by multiple women of harassment, admitted his guilt, and was fired from his prominent position.
How do I, as man, father, and rabbi, respond in ways that lean in and show solidarity, while resisting patronizing, avoiding responsibility, or offering more than mere lip service? How do I, and how do we, sincerely commit to change?
Throughout these past days a biblical verse keeps echoing in my heart, a cherished line that completes the Song of Songs, addressing “She Who Dwells in the Gardens,” aka the Feminine Divine in one of Her/Their poetic incarnations. (You can hear it in this riveting rendition by my beloved friend, Israeli vocal artist Victoria Hana)
“You Who Dwell in the Gardens,
We, Your Friends,
Are Listening to Your Voice:
Let us Hear.”
– Song of Songs 8:13
“She Who Dwells Within and Beyond” is one of the Divine names for the Shechinah – the superpower that has been denied, silenced, harassed and abused by patriarchy for too many generations. In Jewish myth Her voice is imagined sometimes like that of a dove: cooing and lamenting, sometimes in ruins, often at night, always there, heard by those who pause to listen. Exiled but still present everywhere as a protecting force, She shields us under her branches, a tree of life, a force of nature, tender but fierce when needed.
It is Her voice that we now hear, echoing from every testimony, calling us to awareness, waking us up to be and do better.
These are the weeks when in Jewish homes of worship the sacred scroll is rolled open to narrate the tales of the patriarchal family, from Abraham onward. Listen carefully to hear the cry of Hagar, the rage of Sarah, the muffled screams of Lot’s daughters – the price of patriarchy. How do we talk back to this legacy and tell new versions of our sacred stories for the generations yet to come? Start by listening.
I hear. I listen. We are in this together. We will seek and find the ways to heal and support. I will do all I can to prevent future harassment in any way of anyone. I will keep on listening. I know that this collective wake up call is keeping a lot of us up at night, pained, seeking solace and solutions.
How else can I and we respond? What is the role of rabbis and congregations in this growing movement of resistance to silence and abuse? What is the duty of a community such as Lab/Shul to rise up to this call for sacred dignity and transformation of a toxic culture?
Please share with us your thoughts, suggestions, questions, and ideas. Join the public communal conversation by adding your comments HERE, or you can email me or anyone on the Lab/Shul Team your private reflections.
Let’s listen deeper and better to each other, to She Who Dwells within our hearts and gardens, our scars and wounds. Let us be part of the healing.
In gratitude and with love,
– Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie