Yom haKippooreem, 2019
I was asked, “Rabbi, what about compassion?”
What about love?
When we were a baby, we were all of hunger, all of physical need. Our reality and existence were described by the unmitigated necessity of satisfying the drives of the infant body, the growing guf. Yet still, in our distresses, the comfort given us by the touch, the caress, the embrace of a parent, soothed an anguish we didn’t even understand.
That was love, the hunger for love, the fulfilment of that self-same hunger, more powerful than any other.
As we grew, we aged, we acquired more and increasingly sophisticated hungers. Our bellies, our palates, became simultaneously more demanding yet more discerning. We desired power, control over things, ownership of things. We moved into adulthood, we desired control over people, control over creation. The hungers of the guf became myriad and mighty. We swelled with them, and their fulfillment was exquisite anguish, engendering a hunger greater still.
Yet the hunger for love remained paramount – all other hungers fulfilled, without love it was as if we had not eaten aught, achieved nothing, acquired emptiness, embraced a ghost.
But with love, a bowl of rice was a feast, every achievement a triumph, every gain a fortune, every kiss, heaven itself.
With G-d’s help, as we moved through our lives, our capacity to fulfill the hungers of our guf increased. Yet the hungers themselves strangely diminish. The lure of a fine and fancy meal is not what it once was, we pass on that product we so desperately desired in our youth, the fires are banked. Yet the need of the love of the spouse, the child, the friend, does not diminish, but waxes stronger and stronger still, as all its rival desires fall away.
As the child, so the elder, and so too the grown man and woman in their prime – the need for love, to love, the ache never satisfied, but made manifest in all its terrible glory, in the giving.
The guf and all its attendant needs are lent to us, that we, the neshama, that which was breathed into the guf by its Creator; so that we, the neshama, must experience life in the guf, in the world, so that we may know, through experience, that the purpose is love, the neshama is love made manifest, the neshama, which is love, is of G-d, and that G-d created this world, with love, through love, for the sake of love.
For love is only that which passes from hand to hand, always to grow warmer.
Love is not a point, or a place. There are no quanta of love. Love is the fabric in which all reality is woven.
Love is not a hunger of the body.
We are hungry, and we eat, and we are satisfied, and we bless G-d.
Or we eat too much, our satisfaction turns to illness, and we are in distress.
Rather, Love is the hunger of the neshama, for the neshama, that which is of G-d in all those around us – It is the famine that when fed, only grows greater still, until the neshama cries out in the ecstasy of hunger.
The infant being held, the grandparent on their bed, as they look upon their family in that last terrible, wonderful moment. Every breath in between, for those meah w’esrim.
Love, only possible, when there is another neshama, to gift.
Hashem, Hashem, Kael Rahum w’Hanun, Erekh apayim, w’rav hesed w’emeth.
G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, long-suffering, Abundant in Love, and True.
By Biblical dictate we are to actively train ourselves, our neshamot, to emulate these aspects.
It is Love that gets the superlative Abundant, for it is Love that encompasses all the others.
In our history we learn that compassion isn’t always ‘nice’. Love is that which is unendurable while being indispensable.
Love is not comfortable. Compassion is not ease.
But with grace, and with patience, long suffering and true, Love gives purpose to our Neshamoth’s journey in the guf, and the enlightens the sweet path, the awesomely bitter gate, of the Neshama’s return to its home.
HGZ Solomon, 2019