I often relay teachings of my favorite Chasidic rabbi, Menachem Mendel of Kotsk, also known as the Kotzker Rebbe. Once, the Kotzker asked his students, “Where is God.” “Simple!” they exclaimed. “God lives everywhere!”. “No,” the Kotzker replied. “God lives where people let God in.” From what I know of the Kotzker, he didn’t mean his response to be taken literally. It’s not as if there is some magical portal, a spiritual membrane, through which we can invite God into our lives or shut up tightly with a series of locks and bolts so that God cannot enter.
Charlottesville? I’ll get there.
What the Kotzker is talking about is our attitude. If we perceive God as present in a situation, then God is there. If we don’t, then God isn’t. God is all probability and possibility. God is all there is and all there isn’t. God, as the Jewish mystics refer to God, is the Ein Sof, that which has no end. In other words, limitless, boundless. Every thing and no thing. God is.
Charlottesville? In a minute.
God doesn’t decide. God doesn’t judge. God didn’t decide that Heather Heyer would die on Saturday or the other people wouldn’t. It didn’t have anything to do with who let God in and who did not, in the literal sense. Many who were there felt that God was “in” and “on” their side. God doesn’t take sides.
So, no presumptions about where God is or God isn’t, whether God is “in” or “out”, whether God was in Charlottesville on Saturday or whether God’s there now.
I can be in! We must be in! We are tiny pieces of God, of Everything, and we must choose to be “in”. In all that I do and say, I will choose to work against racism, bigotry, anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and violence. I will petition. I will email. I will make phone calls. I will march. I will demand that the leaders of this country act like adults. With all my heart, with all my soul, and with everything I have I will strive to bring justice where it is absent. I do not pretend to love everyone. I don’t love neo-Nazis or White Supremacists. I don’t pity them. And…I can’t become them in trying to counter them. I will not be filled with hate, but I won’t necessarily be filled with love.
I will be filled with hope. I will give myself no other choice but to hope. I will be filled with courage, even when I am most afraid. I will give myself no other choice but to believe that the world can be, must be, better. I will believe that I play a vital role in that change. I am in.