Painting of the Mid-Ocean Ridge with rift axis by Heinrich Berann based on the scientific profiles of Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen (1977).

What Tahara Can Teach Us

Our tradition teaches us that the dignity of the body is utmost in death and in burial, as it is in life. The desecration of sacred bodies, Israeli bodies, Palestinian bodies, is a desecration of the inherent dignity of every human life.

During a Tahara, the Jewish ritual for sanctifying a body after death, we wash the body in a continuous stream of water, we engage in spacious silence, and we recite words which affirm the inherent goodness of every soul, every life an entire world.

We pass the water and the words and the silence from hand to hand, from voice to voice, from person to person, weaving ourselves together in the affirmation of the dignity of this body, this soul, the entire world that was this one life. Then, at the end of the ritual, we apologize for any harm we may have caused unintentionally or unknowingly in the process of this ritual.

Today, I would like to turn, and to apologize, to each and every person who has been killed, each Israeli person, an entire world, each Palestinian person, an entire world, for anything I may have done, unintentionally or unknowingly, in my daily life, in my organizing, and in my meager attempts to mourn your death and act in honor of the dignity of your life. I apologize for anything I have done which desecrated in any way the truth that your life was an entire sacred world.

I apologize here, publicly, in front of all of you, my companions in holding this grief and this call to action, because I know that I am not alone in sometimes feeling guilt or being bowed by shame, and in not knowing how to inhabit my life haunted by so much unnecessary death. 

Our Jewish tradition teaches that it is crucial and necessary to take responsibility for our own piece of the puzzle, no more, and no less. Simultaneously, our Jewish tradition teaches us that it is crucial to take collective responsibility, and to do so together.

In taking responsibility we claim our own power, and we can see more clearly the power that is held outside of our circle of grief, that is held in the hands of those who could call a ceasefire, and we can move, heavy hearted, and connected, into action.