This has been a hard week. We are living in the throes of national anxiety, enduring the first
major terror event since Sept. 11. And today, of course, our hearts are with the residents of
Boston and surrounding communities on full lockdown as the hunt for the second bomber
This week is Parshat Kedoshim, the portion of holiness. “You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal
your God, am holy,” it begins. The portion enumerates many commandments central to Jewish
life and to the ethical underpinning of Western society. And then, amid them all, is this essential
teaching of the Torah: “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Eternal.”
This week I learned that my friend Paul was in Boston on Monday, running the marathon. On
his way to the starting line, he was on a bus chatting with some other runners, one of whom was
named Patrick. When they got off the bus, Patrick snapped a photo of Paul, they wished each
other good luck, and drifted into the crowd.
Paul was at mile 25.5 when the bombs went off. He stood there, with the rest of the runners, for
a full hour before being sent home. He went back to his hotel, and caught an early flight back to
NY the next morning.
On Wednesday, he got a call from Patrick. He had tracked down Paul’s contact information
from the number on his running bib in the photo he took. He wanted to know that Paul was
okay. He also let Paul know that race officials were distributing medals to runners who had not
gotten to finish, and knowing that Paul was back in NY, asked if he wanted him to pick up his
medal for him and send it to him. Paul was deeply touched by his call, his checking in, and was
glad to accept his offer to pick up his medal.
Paul got another call from Patrick later that day. Patrick had been to the marathon offices. He
said they had put a finish line across the entrance to the office, and each runner crossed it to pick
up her or his medal. He told Paul, “I crossed it twice. Once for me, and once for you.”
There is a spark of the Divine in every person. Sometimes we are moved by the beauty of
nature, or of our children, or moments of simple mindful awareness, and our spark is kindled
into flame. Sometimes, we are a part of a group experience, like that of the marathon runners
and first responders, and that flame flares to burn brightly, as we rush to help, to express caring,
and love. It makes strangers reach out to one another, as Patrick did to Paul. It bonds us in
common humanity. Sometimes even, or especially, a moment of terrorism can fan our spark into
a collective, connected, conflagration.
It is the fire of love. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Eternal.”
The war on terror on terror will not be won by military means. The war on terror will be won
by our capacity to love no matter what is going on. Whether we are blessed with tranquility, or
if we are sick, or worried, or lonely, whether we are safe or are on lockdown in our homes as a
manhunt goes on outside – that spark within us can, at any moment, be fanned to the love that
connects each of us to each other, and all of us to the Divine. It is what makes us holy.
“You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy.”
Shabbat Shalom. May this Shabbat bring us all peace.