This episode we are joined by Rabbi Sharon Brous. In 2013 Rabbi Brous was listed as America’s #1 most influential Rabbi. Her 2016 TED Talk “It’s Time to Reclaim Religion” has been viewed 1.5 million times and is utterly inspiring. At 30 years old, Rabbi Brous founded IKAR back in 2004. IKAR is a spiritual community in Los Angeles that has become a magnet for LA’s unaffiliated Jews. Rabbi Brous has joined us on Freedom Road Podcast before when she and T’ruah president, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, helped us to understand Anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Brous was invited to join us on Freedom Road because her new book, The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend our Broken Hearts and World, has something to offer as we step into what is projected to be one of the most tumultuous election years in American history. Rabbi Brous is also a personal friend of Lisa’s and watching her sermon at IKAR online was heart breaking and helped in terms of connecting with the pain reverberating through the Jewish community after October 7. Rabbi Brous has wrestled with the tensions of Zionism and confronted the slaughter of Palestinian people happening in Gaza and the West Bank with clear-headed honesty. Let’s hear her wisdom concerning the future of Israel/Palestine.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Thread or Insta Lisa @lisasharper or to Freedom Road @freedomroad.us. We’re also on Substack! So be sure to subscribe to freedomroad.substack.com. And, keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think!
Lisa Sharon Harper: [00:00:00] Coming to you from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection. I’m Lisa Sharon Harper, president of Freedom Road, a consulting group dedicated to shrinking the narrative gap. Welcome to the Freedom Road podcast. Now, each episode we speak with national faith leaders, advocates, and activists.
To have the kinds of conversations that we normally have on the front lines. It’s just that this time, we’ve got microphones in our faces and you are listening in. In this episode, we are joined by Rabbi Sharon Brous. In 2013, Rabbi Brous was listed as America’s number one, somebody say number one, most influential rabbi.
Her 2016 TED Talk, It’s Time to Reclaim Religion, has been viewed 1. 5 million times. Somebody say 1. 5 [00:01:00] million. Thank you. And is utterly inspiring, which is the reason why it’s been viewed at 1.5 million times. And at 30 years old, Rabbi Brous founded IKAR back in 2004. And IKAR is a spiritual community in Los Angeles that has become a magnet for Los Angeles’ unaffiliated Jewish population. And Rabbi Brous has joined us on Freedom
Road podcast before when she and T’ruah president’s, Rabbi Jill Jacobs, helped us to understand antisemitism. What is it? Where does it come from? How does this, how do we know when it’s in the room? It was an amazing conversation.
And it’s one that I refer back to often for my, even just to check my own self, right? So I invited Rabbi Brous to join us on Freedom Road today because of her new book. She has a new book out… that’s coming out really soon called The Amen Effect, which I was like, what? Okay. So, okay. She messing up in here.
The Amen Effect. That’s what I remember. It’s like, you know, up in church, but she’s [00:02:00] like Rabbi talking. Amen. But of course, amen is he… okay. You know what I mean? It has those roots. And so it’s called The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend our Broken Hearts and World, and it has something to offer us as we step into what is projected to be one of the most, if not the most, tumultuous election year in American history.
Rabbi Braus is also my friend and watching her sermon at IKAR online broke my heart. And helped me to connect with the pain reverberating through the Jewish community in the days directly following October 7th. I’ve watched her wrestle with the tensions of Zionism and confront the slaughter of Palestinian people happening in Gaza and the West Bank with clear-headed honesty.
And I want to hear her wisdom concerning the future of Israel and Palestine. [00:03:00] So we would love to hear your thoughts. Tweet or Insta me at Lisa S. Harper or to Freedom Road at Freedom Road Us. And keep sharing the podcast with your friends and networks and letting us know what you think. Okay, so Rabbi, Rabbi Sharon, Rabbi Brous, how would you like for me first to refer to you?
I have good home training and I need to ask for permission to either call you Rabbi Sharon, Rabbi Brous, or Sharon, what would you prefer?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Well, we’ve been friends for 15 years now, so I think Sharon is just fine.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Did I earn it yet?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: It’s really good to be with you.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Well, you know, you never know how people are, you know, when you get in public.
So thank you, Sharon. I appreciate that. That really means a lot to me. So my first, my first thought, the way I want to kind of enter this conversation is that over the last few months, I’ve often, like I said, thought back to our last conversation on Freedom Road. And in that conversation, you talked about the cycles of violence that befall Jewish people over [00:04:00] centuries, but it just seems to always come back around.
And I think that, you know, you said that Jews around the world keep their passports in their, on their persons, knowing that there might be a need to escape to Israel and where that’s considered their only safe place. And so Sharon, I just want to ask you in this moment where we are actually experiencing an incredible rise in anti-Semitism and also the tensions of very real injustice that are happening on the land in Palestine. How are you holding yourself in these times?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: It’s been a really hard couple of months on many fronts. First, there’s the initial impact of shock and anguish and sorrow of the atrocities committed on October 7th against the Jewish people, [00:05:00] against the state of Israel.
And you know, it was… it became clear very quickly that these were, this was the worst day in Jewish history since the Holocaust, that these were Holocaust level atrocities, and there’s an incredible trauma that that taps into, and something that you and I have talked about, you know, over the years is I think one of the things that’s very confusing for people about anti semitism and about the Jews in general is that we carry a kind of psychic pain with us that comes from multi generational trauma and this historical experience that essentially Wherever we’ve lived throughout history, we were ultimately persecuted, exiled, or genocided from that land.
And so that’s built into the psyche of a Jew, regardless of whether you’re a Jew from Eastern-European background or a Jew from North Africa and from the Middle East. And that’s it. That’s an experience [00:06:00] that many Jews share. And it’s a subconscious experience. And October 7th immediately resurfaced that trauma, that sense that we are not safe. It was compounded by the fact that the atrocities happened in Israel, which part of the raison d’etre of the state of Israel was there should be a place in the world where Jews can be safe from these kinds of terrible acts of violence. So there’s that trauma. Then there’s the trauma of Israel’s retaliation against Hamas in Gaza and just this massive toll of the war and witnessing this profound human suffering that is hard for anybody to bear witness to. And it’s very… it’s very painful. It’s just a painful time to be to be alive and to witness this day after day. Add to that the pain of the rise in antisemitism and the movement from [00:07:00] what now appears to have been a truly latent antisemitism in the United States and around the world, which became overt almost instantly.
I mean, there were protests on October 8th where people–thousands of people–were in the streets screaming “Gas the Jews.” This happened immediately. That was in Sydney, Australia, right outside of the opera house. And then it happened in New York city. That we started seeing swastikas appearing at these protests and then around the rest of campuses and around the country and around the world.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Now, but I’m sorry, I just, I just want to, yes, but I want to just interrupt for a minute to ask, can you clarify? Because some people could take what you’re saying to say, to protest what the state of Israel is doing is to be anti semitic or are, yeah, just, can you clarify that?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah, of course. I mean, there’s a big question right now over whether anti-Zionism equals [00:08:00] anti-Semitism.
One thing that’s very clear is that protesting the actions of Israel’s government and the policies of Israel’s government is not is not necessarily anti-Semitic. There are a lot of anti-Semites who protest against the state of Israel.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right. Yeah.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: But the act of protesting is something I’ve been actively involved in for the last three decades.
And that’s not an anti-Semitic act. That’s actually an act of love. That’s an act of… I believe there, as I do here in America, that our responsibility is to hold the state to its own greatest aspirations of building a just and equal and dignified reality for all of its inhabitants. So there’s a conflation that often happens between criticism of Israel’s government and antisemitism.
And that is a false equation. And at the same time, it is undeniable that there’s been an extraordinary revelation. Of antis… of antisemitic attitudes within many of the protests [00:09:00] against Israel in this moment. And that’s something that needs to be reckoned with and something that frankly.
It’s hard for me to understand why I don’t hear more voices from within the pro-Palestine movement that are speaking out against that, because that not only endangers Jews and Jewish lives, but that endangers also the quest for Palestinian liberation. It does not make Palestinians more free when there’s real anti-Semitism in that movement.
And I have always felt and will continue to believe that there is no liberation that’s not a shared liberation. That we cannot have a people be free while other people remain oppressed. And this is, this is why I believe we have to actually be really looking out for and protecting one another and making sure that, especially in moments of great vulnerability, that we’re very cognizant of the dynamic… of the dynamics of our movement so that we can constantly reaffirm [00:10:00] human dignity and the need for all of us to journey toward liberation together. Amen.
Lisa Sharon Harper: And that gets me to your book. How’s that for a segue? I mean, it’s, it’s actually, let me just say, I mean, I really do say amen to that because I think what I hear you saying is I hear you being very, very clear about what we need to condemn as actions that are unjust against the image of God on earth.
And… but not the image of God, the image of God, the inherent human dignity that lies within every single human being on earth needs to be protected in all, in order to protect all. Is that what I hear you saying?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah, that, that’s absolutely right. And I think one of the ways that racism works in general, and one of the ways that anti-Semitism works is that any individual is held responsible for… that all individuals of [00:11:00] this particular group are held responsible for any action of any individual who’s also part of that group.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: I recognize that as a trope of, you know, of the way that racism functions in a society. And so holding a college student at Cornell responsible for the behavior of Israel’s hardline ultra nationalist messianic government because that student is Jewish is racism.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s right.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: I mean that is, that’s antisemitic. And so that’s not pro-Palestine, and that’s not even anti-Israel. That’s anti-Semitic. And so I think we have to get clear on what’s actually happening in these spaces. And so calling for justice for Palestinians is an essential human call that I have been sounding as loudly and powerfully as I can from my pulpit for, you know, for two decades and that is a just call and getting… [00:12:00] confusing that just call with a kind of toxic anti semitism only endangers the call it doesn’t just endanger me and my family, which I am concerned about our safety here in this place now. But it also endangers the critical work that needs to happen in the days ahead in order for that just society to be built.
Lisa Sharon Harper: I love it. And I love your vision of liberation for all. That’s actually really powerful.
And I love hearing it come from your mouth. Thank you for that. I want you to kind of now move with us into your book. I mean, first of all, how did this book come to be? I mean, what’s the story behind the making of The Amen Effect? Why now? What was it that inspired you to write this now?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Well, first, I’ll just say that I closed this manuscript over a year ago.
And when I went in to read the audiobook in November of 2023, I was a little bit nervous because the world has changed. And I really, I felt that I wrote the book for a different [00:13:00] era. And as I went into the studio to read, I realized. that the book speaks more to this time than it did to the time I wrote it in.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And so I… and I’ll, and I’ll explain why. So the central paradigm of the book is a Mishnah, this ancient Jewish text that codified around the year 220 CE. So the Mishnah is a code of law. And this comes from a particular section of that code of law that was dedicated to the architectural layout of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and it describes a particular ritual, the ritual of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem when the people used to come.
Jews would come from all over the land and from the diaspora, and they would make their way ascend to Jerusalem, go into the ritual bath, and then ascend the steps. They would walk under this arched entryway into the grand courtyard of the Temple Mount.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And they, hundreds of thousands of them at once, would turn to the right, and they would [00:14:00] circle around the perimeter of the courtyard of the Temple, and they would exit, essentially, in the same place where they had entered.
So imagine hundreds of thousands of people.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It’s amazing.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: A mass of people moving. I always envision the Hajj. It’s the way that I think in current times about what it means to have that kind of mass movement.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Except, the text says, for somebody whose heart is broken. And those people would still ascend to Jerusalem, ascend the steps, and walk through the same entryway, but they would turn to the left instead of the right.
And every single person who would walk by them would have to stop and look into their eyes and say two simple words. Ma Lach. What happened to you? What? Tell me your story. And the person who’s broken-hearted, I know. And the person who’s broken-hearted would answer saying, I am a mourner. My father just died. Or my child is sick. Or I found a lump. Or [00:15:00] I just feel so alone in this world.
And the people who are walking from right to left would not be allowed to go on in their journey until they give this person a blessing. And that’s it!
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my God!
Rabbi Sharon Brous: I found this by accident, um, 25 years ago when I was in rabbinical school.
I remember sitting with it, I was looking for something else, I came across this text. I remember thinking, I don’t, I don’t get it. I don’t understand. What is this text trying to say to us? I photocopied the page. I folded it up. I put it back in my book on the shelf. Then I came out to Los Angeles and we built this beautiful community IKAR.
Lots of people died. Lots of people were born. People got married. People got divorced. The world was on fire. There were wars. There was, I mean, life happens. And then one day I pulled the book off the shelf and this piece of paper fell out and I saw it and I thought, Oh my God, I know exactly what this text means.
Lisa Sharon Harper: What?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Now I understand it, right? Like, now I [00:16:00] understand that the, the, like, incredibly profound psychological and spiritual insight that the rabbis had, where they said, when we’re broken, when our hearts are broken, we… our greatest instinct is to retreat from the world because we don’t want to show up in our vulnerability.
We retreat from the world, which only compounds our pain with loneliness and we add pain to pain, but we have to show up, but we can’t show up and pretend that we’re like everybody else because we’re not like everybody else. Our hearts are broken, so we have to show up, but be, but be honest about where the pain is and when we’re okay.
And we’re on, we’re on a mission. I’m on my spiritual mission. We might save and, you know, save up our entire lives for the chance to go on this pilgrimage to go. And we’re walking from right to left. The last thing in the world we want to do is lift our gaze and see this broken person coming toward me and distract ourselves from our mission, which is to circle this courtyard in order to [00:17:00] stop long enough and say, Hey friends, what happened to you?
Are you okay? Tell me your story. Tell me where your pain comes from. And yet that’s, that is our holy work. There’s nothing else.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s it.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: But that, and so, and so I recognized in this moment that this was this essentially the fact, the founding principle of our community, which is we have to learn how to be honest about our pain and how to hold each other in our pain, how to say amen or amen when somebody stands up in the room and says, my heart is broken and we say, amen, amen, amen. We say, I can’t take your pain away. I can’t make it so that it didn’t happen, but I can see you in your pain. I can sit with you in your pain. I can cry with you through the night. And when you’re ready to take a step, I will be here by your side to walk with you. And that, I feel, is the whole essence of what we’re called to be as [00:18:00] human beings, and really the most, the most profound gift that we could actually offer one another.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh my gosh. Y’all, I’m literally crying right now. I mean, I actually have a red nose. I’m literally, I’m, you have hit core here.
And let me just say that the work that I’ve been doing, interestingly, in the biblical concept of Shalom, Which is a Hebrew concept when I’ve landed on and you and I had this conversation actually on an airplane and they’re like How many like five or six years ago? Where it’s become even more clear to me actually in those since that time that the whole point of Shalom… What Shalom is radical connectedness. That’s what it is.
That’s what it is. That’s what we were created for and so to know that there was this… Wow. This practice.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah. And this text, I will say, I [00:19:00] mean, this is a, this text has been buried. This is a pretty obscure text that again, I came across it by accident and thank God I saved it. I, you know, sort of sensed, I had this mysterious sense that it meant something that I couldn’t understand at that time.
And when I said earlier that I read that I wrote the book in a different moment. So, I, my father died in August. My beloved father, Rick Rous, his name was Shalom Benchan of Alep. Shalom is his name. And you know, the basic read of this text is that everybody’s walking this way, but the mourner is walking this way.
And I spent my whole life walking to the right and essentially taking care of people who are grieving, and who had experienced loss. That’s what we do. I bury people, you know, and I give eulogies, and I walk with people in the house and sit in the house of mourning. And then all of a sudden you know, come end of [00:20:00] August, right before High Holy Days, I’m the mourner and I have to, I have to let people hold me, and I have to be cared for.
And I realized as I was, you know, as I’ve been contemplating this paradigm that it actually, I wrote it as a person walking from right to left. I’m reading it now as a person walking from left to right. I wrote this as a, you know, as a Jew in America, in a position of relative security, safety, comfort, and privilege.
A Jew in a white-passing body in America. I read the book now, I, you know, in November, December, 2023, as a person who feels incredibly vulnerable and not safe for myself and for my family here, for my kid in college, you know, for my for my kids who, you know, walk out of a Jewish school every day and wonder, they actually fear for their safety.
And so I, you know, and actually the paradigm holds up from both directions and part of the power of what the rabbis understood when they wrote [00:21:00] this so many years ago is that every one of us. At different times is walking from right to left and will also walk from left to right. And that’s part of the sacred covenant of community that we understand that we stop our own journey to notice the one in pain because it will be me tomorrow.
And when we’re in pain, we allow ourselves to be held because we know that tomorrow maybe I’ll have the strength to hold you.
Lisa Sharon Harper: These are our stories. You’re listening to the Freedom Road Podcast, where we bring you stories from the front lines of the struggle for justice.
I want to ask you, can you distill The Amen Effect into like a paragraph? What is The Amen Effect?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: So the idea is that human beings are [00:22:00] biologically and psychologically and spiritually hardwired for connection with one another. That we need to be seen that this is one of the most universal human experiences and this ancient concept of amen or amen or amen that appears in so many of our sacred traditions is powerful, sacred expression of, I see you.
I see you in your pain, in your joy, in your fear, in your concern, in your yearning. I see you. And I have been so moved by the universality of this human need, and by the power of human connection to help us actually survive some of the most difficult human experiences. Again, not pretending that we can take one another’s pain away, but simply [00:23:00] sitting with one another in grief as a way of expressing the inherent power of our humanity, and reaffirming that, especially in the darkest moments.
So my one sentence is, in a time, an epidemic of loneliness, social alienation, isolation, and extreme polarization, and division, and ideological extremism, we must find our way to one another in sorrow, in celebration, and in solidarity.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Amen. I can’t help it. That’s my Christian coming out, right? Like my hallelujah.
Yes, yes, yes. Amen coming out. So I love the structure of this book. It reads like a devotional actually. I mean, it really, truly, somebody could read through this book and just take a chapter a week, and just reflect on it and then go to the next. In fact, that’s [00:24:00] how I read this book. It’s clear that you are writing.
From a grounded faith, from a faith that’s not one that is not, it’s like disconnected. And it’s, it’s born out of precepts that are kind of conceived in the mind, not actually connected to reality and then applied to our lived life. That’s called systematic theology. It’s what we study. You know, in the Christian theology, or it’s really what dominated Christian theology pretty much from the Enlightenment era forward. It’s now being challenged in a major way by what I think you are exercising in, in your rabbinical work. It’s grounded, rooted, contextual theology. And I can see that it’s very clear. So I want to ask you, as you were writing, you know this work, was there a basic guiding truth?
That kind of shaped how [00:25:00] you engaged each chapter? What was your basic guiding theological principle or experience or truth that you’ve gained to understand that it helped shape how you engage all of these different chapters?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: So the first is what I speak about in, I believe it’s in chapter two about all human beings being created in God’s own image, which is something you and I have also spoken about over the years. And this is the first thing that we learn about human beings in the beginning of the book of Genesis. And our rabbis take this idea, and really extrapolate on it to try to understand what it fundamentally means to live a reality that is informed by that theology.
And so in another Mishnah another one of these ancient rabbinic discourses, the rabbis say that the fact that God started with only one [00:26:00] human being, Adam HaRishon, the first person, and that that being was created in God’s own image means that every single human being is endowed with innate dignity that manifests in three different ways.
One is infinite or inestimable worth. This is a language that one of my teachers, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, a great teacher of Torah of our time, has developed around this. That every person has infinite worth. This is that famous Talmudic and also Quranic teaching that if you destroy a single life, it’s as if you’ve destroyed a world.
And if you save a single life, it’s as if you’ve saved a whole world. Because every single person has infinite worth and value. We have no idea what ideas that person will put into the world, what impact that person will have, that there’s some way in which any interaction that they have could set off a chain of events that could end up redeeming the world.
So every single person has infinite worth. That every single person is fundamentally equal to [00:27:00] everyone else because we all came from the same one. We have the same, the text says, heavenly God, the same heavenly God, and we have the same ancestor, which is Adam Harishon. And the rabbis write this, it’s really, you know, as my… as Rabbi Greenberg shares, this is the fundamental incompatibility of religion and racism.
You call yourself religious, you can’t be a racist because to be a religious person means to hold true to this idea that every single person is fundamentally, is fundamentally in the image of God, and that we all come from the same. So we might look different, we might speak differently, we might vote differently, but we are all fundamentally equal.
And the third of these dignities is the idea that every single person has a unique contribution to make to the world. That every one of us is unique and that the world was in fact created for your sake and for my sake and for each one of our sake. And our job is to [00:28:00] build a human community that actually affirms that every human being has infinite worth, is fundamentally equal to everyone else, and has some unique contribution to make in the world.
And that is, I think, the great challenge of the great theological challenge that my faith, before us. If you believe fundamentally these ideas, how are you manifesting them in the world? How does that impact the way that you build policies in your school, or in your synagogue, or in your church, or how does that inform the way that you engage people on the street?
People you disagree with people in your own family, which might be even the hardest hold off. And so what does it mean to live through the lens of these, these innate dignities that every one of us has simply by virtue of being created in the image of God. And here I’ll lift up the name of another one of my teachers and friends, Rabbi Shai Held, who has a beautiful book [00:29:00] coming out in May, speaking specifically to this idea that with love we were brought into the world.
With love, we must manifest our quest for human dignity. And that is the driving force of my, of my rabbinate and of my community and of the book. And so while the central paradigm is this ancient, you know, pilgrimage ritual and what it means to look at one another and be seen by one another in our, in our pain and anguish and grief. It’s rooted in the idea that every single one of us deserves to be loved deserves to be held, and that each of us has the capacity to offer that love, especially when it’s needed most.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah. Wow. Amen. Oh, that’s going to get old real quick.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: It’s not old yet.
Lisa Sharon Harper: That’s actually true. I have a few more years left on here. So, can you [00:30:00] tell us about showing up? It’s actually one of your first chapters in the book.
What does it mean to show up?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah. I mean, this is, I think that this is one of the great lessons that I have learned as a pastor, as a rabbi that when someone is hurting, I think that we who are walking from right to left, we who are okay in that moment have many reasons why we don’t want to show up and be present for someone else’s pain.
First among them, you know, people’s vulnerability awakens our own vulnerability. And so when we, when we encounter someone who’s experienced a real loss, getting close to that loss awakens me to how vulnerable I am to a similar loss. We see this especially and most tragically when people lose children because there’s this sense of, like, loss is contagious.
And if I get too close to you right now, I realize that I could also lose [00:31:00] my own children because we all live in this myth of you know, kind of eternal life. And the fact is, we’re all vulnerable because in an instant, any one of our lives can change. But it’s not only with the loss of children. We believe that divorce is contagious.
We believe that, you know, that that non-commutable disease is actually contagious, that if I get close to you and your illness, I too might not live forever. And so we tend as humans to kind of avoid people who are in pain when it precisely at the moments that people need us the most–need our presence the most.
We also, I believe we’re even with the best intentions, we’re afraid that we’re not wanted in those spaces, that we’re invading people’s privacy, that we are overstepping boundaries. So there are all sorts of reasons…
Lisa Sharon Harper: I’ve experienced that. That’s one of the apprehensions that I confront in myself when I’m confronted with the ones who are walking to the left, right?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Absolutely
Lisa Sharon Harper: That I’m not maybe… you don’t want me in that space.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Maybe you don’t want me here, you know, and [00:32:00] maybe if I ask you Ma Lach, what happened to you? You might be fine that day, but then you’re going to be triggered into remembering your pain and then I’m going to be causing you more pain. So we, for lots of reasons, some good reasons and some, you know, kind of subconscious just that they’re really there, but they’re not, they’re not really rational.
We pull away from people who are hurting. And in fact, our responsibility as human beings to one another is to step toward the pain, not to step away from it. And, and so, and I’ve seen this in a thousand ways as a rabbi of a community. I’ve seen what happens when we step into grief with one another.
I’ll tell you literally last night, um, I was at a Shiva minion. We do these gatherings in people’s homes during Shiva. The number seven in Hebrew and we have seven days of the most intense grief after a burial. And so I was in one of these where we, where the community crowds [00:33:00] into someone’s home, we take care of all of the food so that the person who’s mourning doesn’t have to think about anything.
We give them the space to say the mourner’s kadish, which I’ll say more about in a moment. And we really give them a container to hold their grief–a sacred human container and they we laugh we cry we share stories We share pictures anyway last night I was I was officiating a Shiva minion for somebody whose mother had died and we were in the middle of the service and a person walked in the room, who literally had just gotten up from her own shiva that morning. Her mother had also died and she was grieving for seven days hers ended that morning. She got up. She lives an hour away. She drove and her first act now out of this most intense period of mourning was going to sit with somebody else to help create the space for them.
So when we do this as human beings when we actually step toward the [00:34:00] pain instead of fleeing we are of course affirming each other’s humanity in a very powerful way.
And that is one of the great lessons. So I have in each book… and each chapter I have a spiritual practice that I associate with, um, with the learning of each of each chapter. And so the spiritual practice of chapter one, which is called showing up is “Go to the funeral” because we all have this experience where we’ve got a busy packed day.
We have tons of meetings. Someone dies. And we think, Oh my God, do I go to the funeral? I’m not that close with the person who died or the person who lost someone. There are going to be hundreds of people there. Will it even make a difference? And is it presumptuous for me to show up? Because maybe they’ll think, why are you even here?
And we’ve all had the experience where we’ve experienced loss. And people who should have shown up haven’t. And we feel like in addition to the anguish and the sorrow, the loneliness. It’s a feeling like we have to navigate our grief alone. [00:35:00] So the rule here…
Lisa Sharon Harper: And we were not,Sorry, I just need to say, and we were not created to navigate our grief.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: That’s right. That’s right.
Lisa Sharon Harper: We were not created for that. That’s such a great point.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Keep going. So my grandma’s rule, my grandma Millie had this rule, which is you just, you show up. You just show up and let someone say to you, okay, I need a little bit of a break right now. Let them say that to you, but we show up and my grandma’s rule was you show up for the Sim Cha, you show up for the joyous moment and you show up for the pain, both.
You just show up. And so like, don’t come back… But push, but push toward relationship, push toward connection. And so I understand this now to be the, the way I think of the rule is err on the side of presence, err on the side of presence, right? Just show up. And maybe, yeah, it might be that somebody says, okay, I have enough bagels and enough friends here and enough people who are [00:36:00] holding me right now.
I want a little peace and quiet, then you can step back.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: But err on the side of presence.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah, yes. And amen. Oh, sorry. I can’t help it. I can’t help it.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: You know, I also, I want to also share something because you keep saying that we’re not designed to navigate these moments alone.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And I want to, I want to just share one, one very powerful ancient text that speaks to that, that I share in the book as well.
There’s a Midrash, a story that the rabbis told about Adam and Eve that first night of creation. So they were created on the sixth day of creation. And at the end of the day, the sun started to set, but they’d never seen sunset before. They’d never seen darkness before. And Adam started to freak out.
And because he’d never seen darkness and he thought, Oh my God, the world is ending. Is it something I did? Is it my fault? Why [00:37:00] is it getting so dark? And then it got darker and darker and darker and he’s weeping and he’s wailing and he’s screaming saying, please don’t let the world end. I mean, imagine if you experienced real darkness for the first time.
And the Midrash says that Eve, his partner, simply comes and sits down across from him and holds him throughout the night until the break of dawn when the light starts to rise up again. And it’s such a powerful expression of solidarity in times of darkness. Eve couldn’t make the darkness go away, but she was willing to sit with him, and just sit across from him and be with him in the struggle.
Until a bright new dawn emerged, and I think that that is so much the essence of what we can offer one another as human beings. Just sacred presence through the, through the hardest chapters.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Can you also tell us a little bit about holding [00:38:00] on? Because that story with Eve and Adam and that from the Midrash, I mean, she held onto him and you have a chapter about holding on.
Can you tell us about that? What do you mean by holding on?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah. We, as a community, have experienced waves of sorrow as various crises, personal, and communal, and global, have hit us, just as every community has. And what we realized is that there’s such a profound problem with loneliness in our society, something that Dr. Vivek Murthy has been writing and speaking about so prophetically and powerfully over these years. I started to research loneliness a little over a decade ago when I read an incredible book by Dr. John Cacioppo on loneliness that revealed that that loneliness not only hurts our hearts in a kind [00:39:00] of metaphysical way, but actually hurts our hearts in a physical way that there’s a physical pain that comes with loneliness that we fundamentally need each other.
But the irony of loneliness is that when, when we experience physical pain, it’s really a message from our bodies to our brains saying you’re in danger, address the danger before this gets worse. So hand on the stove. You know, this is if I keep my hand here, I will get burned. So we pull away. And when we experience loneliness, we also pull away, but the irony is that when we’re lonely, we need to step closer, not further away because we’re only compounding the pain when we pull further away.
And so that what we’ve discovered through these moments of crisis, individual and global, is that we have to create a kind of culture of stepping closer when every instinct in our [00:40:00] body is to pull back. And so we started speaking really honestly about mental illness, about suicidality, about a kind of existential loneliness that pulls us away from life.
And we’ve spoken really bluntly over the years now about what it means to create no stigma zones where we can actually say to each other, you know, I’m not well right now, where we can walk in through the same entryway, but come from the other direction, and trust that people will see us and say, you know, hey, what’s going on with you? Tell me your story. And how can I hold you in this moment?
And so the deepest prayer is in those moments of most acute suffering when we feel furthest from community that we know and that we trust that if we dare to, to expose that we’re in pain, that we will [00:41:00] not be rejected, and ignored, and sent away from community, but we will be embraced and loved.
Because we are seen as fellow images of God who are in a moment of incredible, immense heartache and pain, who desperately need to be the receivers of love.
Lisa Sharon Harper: You know, I’ve actually, I’ve been really struck that there are places, like moments in our lives when we encounter that kind of holding community, another way to put it might be a community of welcome, a community that is characterized by welcome at all times for all people.
And I think I’ve been most struck by the way that the LGBTQ community, quite honestly, actually has created those kinds of welcoming, holding communities in a way that’s actually quite prophetic. And, you know, I realize this might feel like where are we going with this? Or, like, how did we get here?
But it’s really [00:42:00] not. I mean, I think, do you remember the, do you ever see that show, Pose, on, I think it’s Netflix, and it’s about, like, this whole subculture, LGBTQ subculture, queer subculture, where they go and, it’s like kids that are, that are basically thrown away by their parents and their, and their families and they find each other and then they have what kind of like a den mother, a mother that kind of takes them into her home.
And then, so you basically have this house full, an apartment full, a community full of people who were the outcasts. And they love each other well. And the reason why I’m mentioning this, why I feel like it’s actually apropos is that you, you live in LA. You live in the land of beautiful people. You live in the land of power.
I mean, it is literally one of the three major power centers of the entire earth. And y’all know it too. LA knows that. I’ve lived there for 14 years. I know that. And so how hard has it been for you to cultivate a community [00:43:00] that allows itself to see its outcastedness, to see its queerness, to see its ability, its necessity to be welcomed, and not just to be strong.
You know what I mean? That can be hard.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah, this is a city that is… that functions on a very superficial level where it’s a city of… it’s a city of celebrity. It’s a city of extreme wealth. It’s a city of real privilege in many ways, and it’s a city of deep and profound brokenness.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yeah.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And all and all human beings yearn to be seen for who they really are to be seen as beautiful and striving and flawed and searching All human beings, regardless of what they appear to be on social media or in film or in TV.
And so what we’ve really striven to [00:44:00] do in this community is build a space where people can just be human beings, where people can just be honest. So our opening words to one another in community are not, you know, where do you work, and what do you do, and who are you connected to? But who are you? And what brings you here?
That’s the way that we’ve built a community of both compassion and care, and also a community of shared purpose. Another piece of ancient wisdom comes from the great sage Maimonides, great medieval teacher known as Rambam. And he writes that there are three different ways of being in relationship or being in friendship.
One of them is functional and utilitarian. You need something from me, I need something from you. As soon as the utility ceases, the relationship ceases. We all know about relationships like that. The next is a relationship of deep [00:45:00] concern, and where we enjoy being together, we care deeply for one another, we trust each other, and we worry for one another.
And then the third is a relationship of shared purpose, where we together share a vision of what our community, and what our world could look like when we work together. And I believe that what we need to strive to do at IKAR, in our, you know, in our faith community. But I think that in many ways, this is the work of all faith communities and many other collectives is to stand at the intersection of those second, two kinds of relationships, relationships of shared concern and mutual care and compassion on one hand and relationships of shared purpose.
So we’re actually trying to build something together. And that is needed, whether you’re in Los Angeles or, you know, or you’re in, you know, wherever you are in the world. We all yearn to be cared [00:46:00] for and loved and held with compassion and to be working with people who stand on the same side of history and share a vision of what’s possible in our broader collective.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Walking Freedom Road from coast to coast and around the globe. This is the Freedom Road podcast.
Wow. Thank you so much for that. I mean, really, Sharon, that last piece is profound. And I think it’s one of these, it’s one of the pieces of this conversation that I’m going to carry with me again for the next several years. Cause I never… whenever we talk, I always hold on to these conversations, literally for years, they kind of go around in my head, like really, truly, right?
So, I have another question for you. So as we move through this holy day season, our hearts [00:47:00] are challenged to hold on to hold both celebration and the grief of hostages still not come home. The grief of nearly 20,000 dead in Gaza. I mean, in Bethlehem, they’ve actually canceled the Christmas celebrations this year.
They said, we can’t celebrate. Can you tell us about grieving and living?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: I believe that if we’re awake in the world. We are always holding some combination of sorrow and celebration of grief and enjoy any particular Shabbat morning when I walk into IKAR and we begin our services, if I’m paying attention.
There are people in that room whose hearts have been completely shattered. And there are people who’ve just fallen in love. There are people who’ve buried loved ones who’ve [00:48:00] died tragically. And there are people who just got pregnant after trying for 15 years. Right? So, I believe that our hearts are capacious enough to hold.
Both of those experiences at once, it’s very difficult. It’s very, very hard to do that. And I believe that we can, and we must because allowing ourselves to experience joy is how we get our fuel to sustain through periods of great trial and grief and hardship. And if we cut off our access to joy, and to celebration, then we will be less equipped to actually be present to the heartache because you can’t survive forever in a space that is entirely about grief. And this is why I mentioned earlier the house of mourning. When you walk into a house of mourning, you almost always hear laughter. There’s a lot of crying, a lot of crying, [00:49:00] but you almost always hear laughter.
Because when we remember someone, even if they’ve died tragically, we remember also what was quirky and wonderful and unusual and hilarious about them. And this is why when we go to a Jewish wedding, you hear the sound of shattered glass. At every wedding, a glass is broken under the chuppah, under the wedding canopy, to remind us that even in this moment of peak joy, this is my heart is full… I’m standing here with my beloved surrounded by a community of people who want to honor this love, right? And so why do we break a glass because the world is difficult, painful, terrible, broken place. And even within this immediate circle of loved ones, there are people with broken, shattered hearts.
And certainly as we expand the concentric circles beyond this one, there is so much pain. [00:50:00] And to be a responsible human being in the world means not to shut down those news reports of all of those people who are suffering so tremendously right now. But to take it in and to allow our hearts to be broken, and also to affirm that our hearts can also hold hope, because love is also real and joy is actually a nutrient for our spirits.
We need joy in order to survive in these times. And so I share in the book a story about really, I mean, there’s so many moments where I’ve been confronted with this, but one of them was when my beloved cousin was was on her deathbed, and she was young, and she was vibrant and beautiful, and she experienced this this terrible diagnosis and a very rapid decline and she was literally at her last days and the whole family flew to Los Angeles because my son was becoming bar mitzvah and [00:51:00] so it’s my kid’s bar mitzvah, and it’s my cousins probably last couple of days or weeks of life
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And one of my cousins who’s very wise She’s we what as soon as we saw each other We greet the whole family greet each other and everyone’s crying and crying because we’re heartbroken because of this terrible imminent loss, and then one of my wise cousins says, okay, no more grieving.
Now we focus on Levi and the Bar Mitzvah and we celebrate. And I was up all night, Lisa Sharon, I was thinking, is that right? Is that what we do? We shut off the grief for my cousin because we’re focused on my son? That doesn’t feel right. And I realized because it’s not right. Because, because we have to hold both.
We can’t, first of all, you can’t shut out the grief. Unless you’re really not human, you can’t shut out the grief. The reality is that this human suffering is happening, whether it’s my cousin, or whether it’s the children under the rubble, or whether it’s the families of the hostages, this grief is real.
So I don’t want to shut [00:52:00] it out. I want to enter into the celebration with an awareness of the fragility and the precariousness of life because it makes me even more grateful that I can have this moment with Levi as he’s achieving this, you know, this moment of bar mitzvah that he’s worked so hard on.
And I’m not abandoning the pain. I’m bringing the pain with me. into the shared space of joy and pain.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And that has been an incredible Torah, an incredible teaching for, for my whole community that we’ve invested in again and again and again because the, the first time I remember it happened, there was a terrible tragic loss of a child in our community.
Who died in a horrific accident and the family came on Shabbat because they needed to say mourner’s kaddish. They needed to say the mourner’s prayer and they needed to be surrounded by love. But their four year old had just died. It was unbearable. And there was this reverberative trauma echoing through the whole community.
But it was this other kid’s bar mitzvah [00:53:00] and this kid worked so hard and we can’t cancel the bar mitzvah for the sake of the tragedy. So we just held it all and we’ve made a commitment to each other. We’re going to continue to hold it all, to hold the celebration and to hold the sorrow all with one broken, beautiful heart because that is what it means to be a human being alive in this world.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Sister! If I was in LA, you would be my rabbi. I am so for real. Oh my gosh. Do you know, I mean, I literally just went through this myself, and you’re giving words. You’re offering me words to be able to hold what we just went through. On Thanksgiving Day, we were supposed to have my cousin, my second cousin, who is the same age as my mom come and spend Thanksgiving with us.
She’d never done it before. Thanksgiving is her favorite, her favorite holiday, her favorite meal. And she went to sleep, and never woke up that morning. And so on Thanksgiving Day, we’re hosting this big family dinner. And and that my other family [00:54:00] members who went to go pick her up found her having passed in her bed that night.
And so that day we’re holding the celebration of having the family together and the grief of having lost my cousin. And I just remember thinking to myself, this is so weird. This is, I mean, weird was just the word. It was just such a weird day, but you know what it was? It was human.
Rabbi Sharon Brous:Yes, yeah.
Lisa Sharon Harper: It was human.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: It’s human and it’s holy.
Lisa Sharon Harper: And it’s holy and sacred.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: I mean, I looked as I always do when I was first confronted with this challenge that you’ve experienced on Thanksgiving and I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope that your cousin’s memory is always a blessing. And that you feel her presence reverberating in this world for the good for many years to come.
I was searching, searching to try to [00:55:00] find a way to what do we give dominance and prominence to when we’re trying to hold both and I turned to this ancient text about how the people survived after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Right, yeah.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: And everything that they, I mean, their whole lives were, were turned upside down.
I mean, there was massive loss of life. Hundreds of thousands or a million people, they think, were murdered. And the temple was burned to the ground. And everybody, almost everyone who survived was exiled with the exception of small community, pockets of community that were able to stay. And the rabbis, they tell this story that people became ascetics.
They said, okay, we’re not, no Thanksgiving dinner. How can we? Right. We won’t eat. So they said, we won’t eat meat, we won’t eat meat and we won’t drink wine. And so the great sage of the time said, okay, you’re not going to eat, you’re not going to eat meat because they used to have meat in the temple sacrifices.
Okay. Well then you also shouldn’t drink wine because they [00:56:00] also had wine in the sacrifices. So the people said, fine, we won’t drink wine either. So then he said, okay, but then you also really shouldn’t eat bread because they brought bread as an offering to the temple. And so, you know, really no bread. And they said, okay, we’ll just do water.
And he said, listen, my children. You must grieve. You must grieve, but you also must live. And our work in the world is not to live with reckless abandon where we forget the lives of your cousin and mine and the lives of all, all of the people who are suffering and whose lives hang in the balance right now.
But instead we remember them even as we dance, as we celebrate, as we feast, as we experience joy in this world, because that is the testament to our human connection to one another.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Hmm. Okay. So as we enter one of the, if not the most contentious election years in US history, can you please tell us how we hold onto our capacity to wonder?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Yeah. We just [00:57:00] have… I’m deeply worried about the division right now that we’re experiencing in this time. And I mentioned when I shared with you the ritual of the circling around the courtyard as our conversation began that the person who’s walking from left to right, when they’re asked what happened to you, what’s your story that they answer saying, I’m a mourner, which I extrapolate throughout the book to mean I’m a broken-hearted person.
I’m someone who’s had some kind of loss, but the Mishneh actually gives two examples. And the second example after the mourner is someone who is a . It’s called a_________. That it’s an ancient category of punishment to somebody who’s been ostracized from community either because of their ideas or their actions that have been deemed so harmful to the overall community that it’s really not safe to have them in community.
You can’t do business with them. You can’t learn with them. You can’t be in school, you know, and you can’t even be within six feet of them. [00:58:00]
Lisa Sharon Harper: Wow.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: It’s a kind of excommunication that was so very rare and very serious. Yeah. But in this ritual, the __________, the ostracized, shows up at the temple. And not only do they show up in the same physical space, but they are walking like the mourners against the tide.
And every person who comes towards them asks them, ma lach, what happened to you? And they say, I’ve been ostracized from community. I’m separated from my own people right now. And they too are answered with a blessing. And the blessing is either may your community find a way to embrace you again, or may you find a way to repent from whatever you did that separated you from community so you could find your way.
But what I’m so struck by is that the rabbis understood that there were times when either our ideas or our actions put us at odds with each other in a way that we really believe. That we can’t even sit down together ever again. And the answer is to ask a question [00:59:00] and say, tell me, what has this been like for you?
What is your story right now? Tell me about your pain. The rabbis are inviting us into wonder, inviting us into curiosity about the other so that we can actually learn. It’s a question. It’s… we don’t just say, may you one day understand the error of your ways. We say, tell me. What brings you here? What have the last two months been like for you?
How is your heart in this moment? And I’m so struck by what it means in this this culture that suffers as ours does from a curiosity deficit. Where we so, we have such little wonder about one another, but we have all these assumptions. You believe this, and you believe that, and you don’t honor or value my life, and you don’t honor mine.
To actually ask, and sometimes when we ask, we’ll get shut down, and we’ll make no progress with each other, and we’ll realize, I’m actually safer at a distance from this person. And [01:00:00] sometimes it might make a little bit of a difference and sometimes it might make a big difference. And we actually begin to build real loving relationships with each other and learn that we can stand with one another in solidarity without undermining our own commitments and our own core values.
And that’s what I’m praying for in this time. I’m praying that all of this brokenness, that all of the ruptures. Of the time that we’re living in, in this post 2016 election reality, which changed America forever, and in the ruptures created on October 7th, and afterwards, that we’re able to find our way, even to the people who we, who we see walking in a different direction from us, even to people who have hurt us, who’ve hurt our hearts by things that they’ve said or posted or by our assumptions about the positions that we think they hold, that we find the strength and the courage to hold curiosity about them and to ask ma lach, tell me what’s this been [01:01:00] like for you and how can I hold you during this time and that what comes from that is the blessing of us finding our way toward one another once again, and I believe that this matters not only because my heart is broken and your heart is broken and all of this division is hurting our spirits, but because it’s also going to break our democracy if we don’t figure out how to find our way to each other.
There’s only one… fascism is what wins, like, so just to be really clear, and Hannah Arendt wrote so many years ago, she said that loneliness and isolation and social alienation are preconditions for tyranny. The more isolated we feel from each other, the more likely it is that tyrannical, fascistic forces come into our public space.
And take over that space because we have broken apart from one another. We who have shared values about dignity and justice and equity and equality and love in the public space. If we turn away from each other and can’t [01:02:00] find our way back to each other with curiosity and wonder, none of us win.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Can I want to offer a little bit even to me to move this conversation that much further forward.
I was in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia in 2004, when you created IKAR, I was, I was there and I wasn’t there for a long time. It was one month, but we were on a pilgrimage and we pilgrimage really through Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, the whole thing in order to understand how Shalom is broken. And one of the lessons that I got there, I never, ever connected it to wonder.
Curiosity, yes, but never to wonder. But now through what you’re just talking about, I understand the connection. But the lesson that I learned there was that wars. Begin through lack of humility, lack of [01:03:00] humility causes wars because what one side or even both sides do is they say, I know what your intention was and this is, and you did this in order to do this.
And now I’m going to retaliate in this way. Or they say, I know that you did this. When actually, maybe I didn’t do this. Maybe there’s fake news out there. Maybe there’s, maybe there’s rumors that maybe, you know, but so there’s, there’s lack of humility, which is what actually causes this yarn ball that explodes and wonder curiosity actually require humility beneath it.
Like it has to be the foundation. Cause you have to know that you don’t know everything.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: That’s right. Yeah, I, there’s a story that I share in the final chapter of the book where I talk about wonder that [01:04:00] comes from the Talmud, also ancient text, and it’s a story about this wonderful man, this very strange man who had the power through his prayer to make it rain when there was a drought. And so there was a terrible drought and people are dying and everybody’s trying everything and they can’t make it rain. And the rabbis say, okay, we have to go to Abba Hilkiah, this guy who has this sacred power passed down through generations in his family. And they go and they see him and the story chronicles all of these events that they have with this guy who is rude and callous and disrespectful and aggressive.
He does so many behave… like behavior after behavior after behavior. And then finally he makes it rain. He prays and the miracle happens and it rains and the rabbis should leave the delegation that went to see him. And they should just say, this guy is a terrible guy. He has a special power, but he’s a terrible guy.
But because they got what they wanted, it’s raining. But instead of walking out, they [01:05:00] turned to him and they say, before we go. Some of your behavior has puzzled us. Can we ask you a few questions? And they ask him about one after the next after the next and it turns out that he has an explanation for every single thing that he did that seemed callous and rude and aggressive and irresponsible every single one of them There was a story behind the story which we would never have known as the reader and the rabbis didn’t know and and I I feel that our whole lives hinge on that question.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Yes.
Rabbi Sharon Brous: Some of your behavior has puzzled me. Can I ask you about it? Some of your behavior has hurt me. Can we be in conversation? I want to understand you more and I want you to understand me. So you’re, I love your idea about humility. It’s recognizing that we just might not understand what’s driving you.
And I yearn for deeper human understanding. And I just, I feel that this is so essential to our humanity. And don’t we, when we feel we’re being [01:06:00] misunderstood, yearn for someone to say to us, like, Hey, like, don’t assume. Just ask me. I’m happy to tell you who I am and how I came to these… Please ask me.
And so what would it take for us to give that gift to someone else to say, Help me understand more because some of your behavior confuses me. Tell me what is your story and how did you come from this conclusion to that? And when we ask. Just stay at the table when we stay in that conversation, and we’re driven by an open hearted curiosity while keeping ourselves safe, right?
What might we learn about the other and about ourselves?
Lisa Sharon Harper: Mm hmm. Oh my gosh. It’s so good All right, so I have two last questions for you. And these are, I want you to dream, like really dream, and I want you to paint the dream. What are your dreams for Israel?[01:07:00]
Rabbi Sharon Brous: My hope in the darkest days is drawn from Jewish Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza who are working together for a just and shared future, who understand that there are millions of people living in a tiny sliver of land. And none of them are going anywhere else.
Millions of people who basically the rest of the world has said over the course of generations, like, you are not my problem. There’s no other safe place in the world for Jews to go or for Palestinians to go. And so have said, we must see each other’s dignity and humanity and learn how to live as neighbors.
And whether… what exact form that takes, I don’t know. But I know that it’s possible for us to live in harmony with one another. I know that there are more people who want that than want the [01:08:00] alternative. And I really have seen one thing that’s been very heartening in the last two months is that I have heard more people talk about a two-state solution and the possibility of peace in the last two months than in the last ten years.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Oh gosh, yes.
Rabbi Sharon Brous:Yeah, and I think because it seemed almost like that time has passed. There’s no way. We’ll go back there. And now I’m hearing people from all different backgrounds saying we have got to figure this out. The time is now, and I know that we can figure it out. And so my dream is that we learn how to see one another as neighbors, because at the end of the day, What most people want is to put their kids to bed knowing that they’re safe and that their bellies are full so that they can wake up in the morning and go to school and learn I mean that is the most basic human need and I believe that once we reattach to that shared humanity and that shared vision that there’s that there’s [01:09:00] nothing that we won’t be able to do together
Lisa Sharon Harper: Now I realize that you gave a shared vision a shared dream for Israel and Palestine But I want you now to kind of step into the shoes of the Palestinian, the shoes of the other, and share, what are your dreams for Palestine?
Rabbi Sharon Brous: I want Palestinians to have the same thing that I want Jews to have, which is self determination, dignity, a future to look forward to, a sense of justice in this world. I feel whenever I speak with Palestinians who share their experience with me, and they talk about their yearning. For a home when they talk about their pain of multigenerational trauma, when they talk about their sense of abandonment, I always feel like there is a people in this world who are very well suited to empathize with you because we share so [01:10:00] many of those basic experiences and the world has set us up to be enemies with one another, but really, our hearts should be aligned with one another.
And I dream of that future for Palestinians. I dream that for both, for Palestinians and for Jews, that there are places where we can experience freedom, security, safety, dignity, peace.
Lisa Sharon Harper: Thank you for joining us today. The Freedom Road Podcast is recorded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, or wherever our guests lay their heads that night. This episode was engineered and edited by and produced by Corey Nathan of Scan Media. Freedom Road Podcast is executive produced by Freedom Road LLC. [01:11:00] We consult, coach, train, and design experiences that bring common understanding, common commitment, and lead to common action.
And you can find out more about us on our website at freedomroad.us now stay in the know by signing up for updates, which are on Substack. Somebody say Substack. That’s where you can find us at freedom road on Substack. And we promise that we will not flood your inbox. You’ll get maybe two major newsletters from us in the course of the month.
And we invite you to listen again, join the conversation on Freedom Road. And if you are a patron on Patreon or a subscriber on Substack, you get an extra little treat. We have for you a very special treat, a behind the scenes conversation with Rabbi Sharon Brous. So catch you over there.[01:12:00]