Rabbi Keilah Lebell – July 2, 2020
Like so much else that has completely changed since quarantine began, so has my consumption of literature and podcasts, and my Torah study. My reading now serves to comfort and inspire me toward hope. Since I no longer commute, my regular podcast listening dropped off, except for when I’m doing dishes and picking up toys late at night. I noticed early on that my heart couldn’t handle reading the latest tragic news stories at night. Now I check it less frequently and only when it’s still light out. Here are some of the things I’ve been reading and listening to…
I reread Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera at the beginning of sheltering in place. There are several chapters when the protagonists are stuck on a ship to protect people from cholera. This is my favorite line of truth from the novel:
“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”
With a health crisis, I was anticipating theological crisis too, so I reread: For Those Who Can’t Believe: Overcoming the Obstacles to Faith by Rabbi Harold Schulweis. His reasoned perspective on God and belief always refresh me and my faith.
Reading history during a time of crisis can be surprisingly grounding. I had already been reading this one, recommended by Rabbi Adam Greenwald: Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict by Benny Morris. And it’s fascinating to see how the mistakes made in Israel’s history are still repeating themselves.
The Piaseczno Rebbe (Rabbi Kolonymous Kalmish Shapira) wrote his Aish Kodesh in the Warsaw Ghetto, where he ultimately perished. It’s a compilation of his weekly divrei Torah (sermons) that he taught to his community as they endured the most grim and horrifying reality. He digs into Torah and manages to pull out hope and some of the most inspiring portrayals of the divine and the strength of human spirit.
I had never studied Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz’s Social Justice Commentary on Pirkei Avot. I pick it up and read a few pages on Shabbat.
The House that Race Built, edited by Wahneema Lubiano, is a compilation of some of my favorite black authors reflecting on race, power, the threat to democracy, and the rise of white nationalism.