An Ocean of Tears
There are moments when everything changes. In my lifetime, one of these was seeing the picture of our planet Earth from space. With that photo of our home, I, along with everyone else was able to see for the first time that we were one whole, living, breathing, connected planet. This is the image I hold in my head saying the Shema because, for me, this represents that God is One.
After seeing that photo, our consciousness shifted.
As human beings, we could no longer justify our separateness. Being confronted with the reality that we were connected, we knew that we needed to act differently. We couldn’t “un-see” the Earth as a shining marble, fragile and precious, because it is right in front of us as truth.
Right now, we are experiencing another paradigm-shifting moment.
The Harvey Weinstein sex abuse scandal has unleashed a spontaneous response of #MeToo posts on social media. Thousands upon thousands of women and some men are speaking out on Facebook and Twitter, sharing their personal experiences of sexual harassment and assault from childhood up to now. It’s raw. It’s true. It’s painful.
My entire social media timeline on Facebook and Twitter is overflowing with #MeToo reports. A river of stories and a flood of tears in the Jewish community. Real stories from women I know:
We can’t unsee these stories. And we can’t pretend these wounds don’t damage souls.
“The boys on the playground snapping our bras and shaming us for being flat chested or too developed.”
“The time when I was a student rabbi and the temple president insisted on walking me to my hotel room despite my saying no thanks. I felt so threatened that I put a chair against the door after he left.”
“My 7th grade religious school teacher sexually molested me and my rabbi didn’t believe me.”
“The nice Jewish guy who raped me on my first date while I was sleeping and then said — oh I thought you were fake sleeping and wanted it (I didn’t).”
“The unwanted hand on my knee and up my skirt. The catcalls and the feels on the subway.”
“My husband’s friend slipped a Playboy magazine under the table on my son’s 21st birthday, while winking at me. That man told dirty [stories] throughout dinner.”
Over the past few days, as I read these stories, I could hardly move. Post after post brought up my childhood of constant comments by boys about my body and the accompanying shame that I wasn’t good enough, pretty enough or filled out enough. Other stories reminded me of incidents I had brushed aside as “no big deal” — but upon reflection, were formative and painful.
We can’t “un-see” these stories. And we can’t pretend these wounds don’t damage souls.
This ocean of tears needs to evoke a sea change. Each precious human is a world we need to learn to protect and help flourish, just like planet Earth.
We have texts in our holy books about treating others with dignity. They are simple, but not easy. We are holy because are made in the image of the Divine, b’tzelem Elohim, as we just read in the beginning verses of the Torah.
We also need new texts: stories that include the voices of the vulnerable and those hurt by sexual abuse and a culture of degradation.
We need these new texts to make sure that this moment in time becomes a moment in eternity; that a new consciousness honoring human dignity becomes the default position of humanity.
In embracing the reality that we are all connected, we must pray for the strength and wisdom to live up to our Divine image.
Rabbi Jill Berkson Zimmerman is the founder of The Jewish Mindfulness Network.