Live from the Lilith Blog 1 of 2

June 14, 2016 by

Brock Turner, Donald Trump, Omar Mateen: Our Deepest Spiritual Challenges

Flickr.com, Karl Schneider

Flickr.com, Karl Schneider

A slap on the wrist for a convicted rapist caught in the act. A presidential candidate who campaigns on anger, fear, misogyny, and building walls. A gunman who joins the ranks of the countless gunmen before him by mowing down civilians with weapons designed for a war zone.

These stories filling our facebook feeds are emblematic of our political, economic, and social struggles. Yet, at their core, they demonstrate the deepest spiritual challenges we face today.

Hate is a spiritual challenge.

Treating others as less than human is a spiritual challenge.

Defensiveness is a spiritual challenge.

The beautiful, prayer-filled vigils that have been organized in the aftermath of recent tragedies are absolutely necessary for our collective mourning—but they are a downstream spiritual solution. I am tired—we are bone-crushingly tired—of gathering together and weeping over the bodies of raped women and murdered innocents.

We, people of faith, need to stand upstream today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and make manifest the sacred power of love and connection. I don’t want to talk about Jewish peoplehood, education, philanthropy, engagement, the “unaffiliateds,” any of it—unless it is in the service of making manifest the sacred power of love and connection. Our teachings, traditions, and rituals are full of too much wisdom and resilience, and are too desperately needed in this moment, for anything less.

On Sunday morning, a small group of friends, queer and straight, gathered at the mikveh, the Jewish ritual bath used for lifecycle transitions, to honor Amelia and her upcoming wedding to her partner, Lucy. Amelia’s friends showered her with blessing after blessing about what she has meant to them, the gifts that they appreciate in her that she doesn’t recognize in herself, and their hopes for her in her marriage. They cried, they held hands, they allowed truth and vulnerability to open their hearts to gratitude. Amelia immersed in the warm waters of the mikveh, and emerged renewed, transformed, with a profound sense of self-worth. She shared that she had been lied to for years about the circumstances of her birth, and her immersion, a re-birth of sorts, served to heal a deep wound caused by family secrets. Before we left, I wrapped Amelia and her friends in a tallis, a prayer shawl, and sang the ancient Hebrew blessing for God’s protection to cover her and God’s light to shine on her in this transition.

The healing moments we shared together at the mikveh, moments overflowing with the sacred power of love and connection, rippled out into the queer communities of Amelia and her friends on Sunday afternoon.

Against hate, let us model peace in our intimate and public relationships so that our children will deeply understand peace. Against defensiveness and the urge to build walls, let us experience openness and vulnerability in our Jewish communities so that we can learn how to cultivate those experiences for our wider world.

Sometime in the middle of the night on Saturday, as shots were ringing out in Orlando, the Jewish people stood at the base of the mountain and promised God that we would be God’s goy kadosh, holy nation. May we be up to this crucial task.   


Rabbi Sara Luria is the founder and executive director of ImmerseNYC: A Community Mikveh Project because powerful ritual experiences that connect us more deeply to ourselves, our communities, our histories, and that which is greater than all of us are a vital part of the healing needed in our world today.