“Love of Humanity”


Friday we took a boat to Key West, an island in the Florida Keys that contains the Southernmost Point in the United States, 90 short miles from Cuba. The island is inhabited by an open-minded population who adopted as their slogan the philosophy that all people are equal members of one human family. Being there was a lovely way to spend a Friday afternoon!!

Key West’s philosophy reminded me of this statement by Hillel Zeitlin, a Hasid who lived in Warsaw, Poland, in the first half of the 20th Century:

In the Hasidim of the future the love of God will shine forth and burn even more brightly than it did in the days of the BeSHT [Ba’al Shem Tov (1700-1760 ce)]. The “Love of Israel” will be transformed into a great worldwide “Love of Humanity.” **

Later in that same paragraph, Zeitlin explains:

. . . “Justice, Justice shall you pursue” (Deut 16:20) will be spread through all social relationships. Justice will be demanded not only of the opposing class . . . but people will demand justice of themselves. Pursuit of justice will be not only a public matter (as it is today), but rather one of individual concern. Each person will think not only about how to avoid being exploited, but rather about how to avoid exploiting the other. **

And I thought that might be a nice idea to carry with us in these weeks following Passover . . . .

During Passover, we focus on our own personal liberation from Egypt and look for ways to release ourselves from the “narrow straights” that (emotionally & psychologically) constrain us today. But now, as we Count the Omer and march through the desert toward the revelation of Gd’s presence at Mount Sinai on Shavuot, we need also demand justice of ourselves. We must begin to consider how we, as individuals, can avoid exploiting all others, so that one day all people might think of themselves as part of ONE HUMAN FAMILY.

shavua tov (a good week) to all, jen



** both quotes taken from Hillel Zeitlin’s “What Does Yavneh Want?” as translated by Rabbi Arthur Green in Hasidic Spirituality for a New Era: The Religious Writings of Hillel Zeitlin, Paulist Press (New York 2012).

What then?


It’s hard to believe Spring is here when we got 6″ of snow on Shabbat. But I’m sure it’s here because 24 hours later, nearly all that snow was gone! And I’m glad it was gone, because yesterday was moving day. We have a new apartment that’s a little smaller and has a front porch where I can sit to read, have morning coffee, and grow some herbs. And we are closer to the pool and the bus stop, which the boys appreciate. 😄

I also know Spring is here because Passover is only a few days away. Time to clean out the leavening and buy some matzah! As I began thinking about the shopping and food preparation that needs to occur this week (along with unpacking and cleaning the old apartment), I realized there is also “internal preparation” that we must do to take advantage of Passover’s opportunity for spiritual growth . . .

What then?

What then is my slavery
and what is my freedom?
Is the redemption I need what I seek?
Or am I headed toward a destination
that wasn’t truly my destiny,
‘cause I succumbed to forces ‘round me?

Help me, my Gd,
to see Life more clearly,
to comprehend the steps I must take,
to break free of these chains
and embrace my liberation
in a desert where I’ll be nearer You.


From time to time we may find ourselves in a “narrow place,” a situation where we feel trapped.
Trapped by our fear or anger.
Trapped by our lack of knowledge or lack of control.
Trapped by destructive habits or patterns of interaction that we learned as children and struggle to discard as adults.

This Passover, as we once again prepare to make Exodus, I pray that I never forget that:

— Egypt is not always a place outside of me,


— Pharaoh is not always someone other than myself.

Leaving a narrow place can require action with our feet, but sometimes, instead, Exodus requires that we open our eyes and our hearts, so that we can see that the place where we stand is not so narrow after all.

May it be G-d’s will that each of us finds freedom from all bondage, regardless of its origin …

Chag Pesach Sameach!