Rabbi Hannah: May we all cross to safety

I want to express my gratitude to many of you who have reached out to share stories from your meaningful Seders. I am moved by your resilience and your joyful creativity in connecting, even as connections remain remote. I know that there was deep sharing at many Or Shalom tables.

With the second Seder, we entered the realm of the Omer, beginning to count our way to the festival of Shavuot and to Sinai. During this first week of the Omer we turn our attention to the divine and human attribute of chesed – loving kindness, grace, and embrace without judgment. I could sit in reverie, but I am discomfited by our human interruption of God’s grace. And my ears fill with the cries of Asian American Pacific Islanders and Jewish-Asian friends, reeling from the recent murders in Atlanta on March 16, the latest cries arising from xenophobic violence to pierce our complacency.

May we be broken open.

In a small and symbolic gesture, Ross and I placed a bowl of kimchi on our Seder plate this year. Echoing the Biblical story of persecution in Ancient Egypt, we have been strangers in many strange lands; we have been targets and victims of othering and violence against the Other. Surely, we stand in solidarity. But it is important to recognize that the problem is not so remote as the news reflects. Since the onset of the pandemic, anti-Asian racism has heightened right here in Vancouver.

To bring the issue home, I invite you to look at this three-minute CBC interview with our friend, Carmel Tanaka, a Vancouver Jew and contributor to OS programs (you might remember her recent challah baking workshop), who is of Jewish/Asian descent: https://www.facebook.com/elimin8hate/videos/567916597510470

The world has begun to bloom in earnest, the chesed of Spring unfolding before our eyes and surrounding us. Let us integrate the unconditional grace of the earth’s flowering and know that nature’s flourishing and our flourishing is God’s intention, surely the right of all God’s children. We’re called by the season and its festival of freedom to stand up for unqualified beauty, stand up for unrestricted blossoming, stand up for unreserved dignity. Please join me in expressing solidarity with Asian Americans and Asian Canadians continuing to be targeted by violence. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

This Shabbat we read the final chapter in the story of our escape from degradation, the sea crossing. As we cross over, may we hold the waves back for all who are targeted so that they may cross with us in a great and loving mixed multitude.

Shabbat Shalom.

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