Archive for April, 2016

Don’t Stand By – a chant


Coming into Heathrow after helping refugees in Lesvos, I’m wearing one of the fake life jackets that the refugees were sold as they made the dangerous crossing from Turkey. If the borders into Europe were open, no one would need to make that crossing. I wrote this chant when I got home. It is based on Leviticus 19:16,18.

16 Do not stand by the blood of your neighbour. I am the All That Is. 18. Love your neighbour who is like yourself. I am the All That Is.

When I open my eyes and see the suffering of my neighbour, there are times when my heart sings such a pure song of love that whatever I do is infused with joy and a sense of connectedness to the All That Is. And there are times when I see the suffering of my neighbour and I do stand by – I close my eyes. I don’t get involved. I become paralysed by feelings of overwhelment and unworthiness.

This is an all-encompassing and terribly daunting mitzvah – it governs our relationship with the All That Is, with ourselves, and with each and every one of our neighbours no matter how badly they behave and no matter how evil we believe them to be. It is not a simple thing to know how to live by this mitzvah, especially when we are bombarded by news of our neighbour’s suffering in every part of the planet as well as at home and in our families.

I wrote this chant because I need to remind myself that I am not the All That Is, that I can’t see the bigger picture, that ‘this too is for the good.’ My practice is to remember that my understanding of my neighbour’s suffering and indeed of my own is limited and subjective, a projection of my own perceptions and fears onto others.I find Rabbi Tarfon’s comment particularly reassuring: “It is not your responsibility to finish the work [of perfecting the world], but neither are you free to desist from it.” (Talmud, Pirkei Avot 2:16)

Verse 1:
Lo ta’amod al-dam re-echa x3 . Don’t stand by.

Verse 2:
See the blood of your neighbour,
Your neighbour who’s like you.
Love yourself to love your neighbour.
Ani Adonay.