By Elena Eisenstadt and Emmanuelle Sippy, Mitzvah Corps Pacific Northwest II 2018 Participants
Friday night, circled together and singing the Sh’ma, each of us shared words of gratitude; ones of connection, conversation, and community.
On Shabbat morning, we gathered together for a text study in hevruta (pairs) on the blessings for daily miracles. As we read them, one of our program leaders, Zach, prompted the group to examine each blessing individually. Our hevruta’s conversation centered around one in particular – the blessing for being created in God’s image.
I, Emmy, shared that often I struggle with prayers that center around God because I am unsure of whether or not I believe in the more traditional sense of God. When I replace God with words such as peace or compassion, it is easier for me to appreciate the liturgy.
I, Elena, explained that in my understanding of God, God is complicated, embodying both Justice (din) and compassion (rahamim).
I, Emmy, agreed with Elena, and argued that justice, tranquility, and love are inherently nuanced, not perfect or straightforward absolutes.
As a result of challenging each other, the prayer and varying notions of God became more meaningful. Both of us believe that by accepting God as a complicated figure, we can begin to accept our complex selves and occasional failures too.
During Havdallah that evening, again circled together, we thought back to the beginning of the day, rather than all the activities which took place in between. Each individual interpreted the blessings differently, yet we were united by our understanding of the text, and therefore, one another.
As we look ahead to our week as counselors at the International Rescue Committee’s summer camp, we are eager to see and feel the compassion and love in our campers and what they will teach each of us.