Less than a week and I am still current with the Daf Yomi, daily Talmud study. Only about 2705 pages left to go! It has been a wonderful experience as every page offers sparks of wisdom and inspiration.
Take for example the recent story about roosters. Roosters, we're told, can give away through their behavior (by standing on one leg when their crests seem to lose their color), the times when God is angry with the world. Rabbi Joshua ben Levi was constantly assaulted by a certain heretic who constantly questioned and insulted him. Finally, to get even, Rabbi Joshua ben Levi thought he'd get a rooster, watch it for when it showed that God was angry, and at that moment pronounce a curse on his enemy, which would surely doom him. But - he fell asleep. The rabbi concluded from this, "it is not proper conduct to curse people, even if they are wicked, for 'God's mercy (chesed) is over all his creations.'"
Would that our world understood what Rabbi Joshua ben Levi understood, that even that person who just bothers you to know end, let along the person who is truly bad, is still one of God's creations. And that if God extends His mercy to such people, then we should, too.
In fact, as we learn in this week's Torah Portion, remembering what it means for us that we enjoy God's love, and that we should emulate it - that's pretty much what it's all about. Our portion puts it like this, "If you observe these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep His covenant of loving-mercy (et ha-brit ve-et ha-chesed) with you, as He swore to your ancestors. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers."
Sadly this week, we live in a world that has yet one more example of what happens when this fundamental teaching is not understood. Our prayers should be with Sikh community of Oak Creek, Wisconsin who suffered great loss at the hands of an evil man who let his fears and hatred of the unknown other lead him to such terrible actions. That crime should remind us just how much work we have to do to make God's covenant of love, of mercy, alive in this world.
This week, when we wish each other a Shabbat Shalom, let it be a prayer that all God's Creations can enjoy God's Loving Mercy, and God's Peace.