On Tisha B'Av, a Prayer for "Radical Empathy" by Rabbi Yael Levy

As we appraoch Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the month of Av:

The teachings of this time sound in our hearts and through out the world:

Hatred destroys.

Hatred encourages the dehumanization of each other.

Hatred encourages actions that wound and annihilate.

The holy, the sacred, will not dwell in hatred.

At times it makes sense to be afraid, to be angry, to want to lash out and destroy.

And yet, these responses only increase the venom that poisons our hearts and souls.

This time of the month of Av teaches that, in extreme moments of anger and fear, we should do everything we can to not allow ourselves to fall into the clutches of hatred.  

Cultivate da’at, the tradition teaches. Da’at is internalized knowing: it integrates knowledge so deeply that it becomes part of our flesh.

Da’at is the capacity to bear paradox — to accept that two contradictory statements are both true –- and can be held at the same time. Rather than seeking to destroy what contradicts or threatens, da’at seeks to expand and build bridges.

Of course this is not easy. But it is possible to begin with small steps. To cultivate da’at during this time, we need radical empathy: an absolute commitment to see the humanity in those we fear and have engaged as enemy. 

We begin practicing with those we love: our family, our friends, our community. We recognize their vulnerability and beauty and feel our love for them. Then we turn toward those we do not know who live in our neighborhoods, our cities, and we recognize their vulnerability, their beauty and humanity -- and we send them blessings for well being, safety and peace.

Then we let ourselves see the children of those we have labeled "enemy": the children -- small, young, vulnerable.  And we see their humanity and send them blessings for well-being, safety and peace.

Let us take this holy time to make a commitment to break the stranglehold of fear and hatred in our own hearts.  Let us begin by calling forth our great capacity to love.

The sacred dwells in our midst. Let us call on compassion and empathy with all our hearts, souls and strength.                                                             -- Rabbi Yael Levy


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