Rabbi’s Corner

Rabbi’s corner: ‘Walking with the wind’ is motto for our times

Rabbi Stephanie Aaron

Congressman John Lewis shared this story about his childhood. He called it a little story that has nothing to do with a national stage or historic figures or monumental events. It’s just a simple true story, about a group of young children, a wood frame house and a windstorm.

“One afternoon, about fifteen of us children, my brothers and sisters and cousins were outside my Aunt Seneva’s house, playing in her dirt yard. The sky began clouding over, the wind started picking up, lightning flashed far off in the distance, and suddenly I was terrified. As the sky blackened and the wind grew stronger, Aunt Seneva herded us inside. Her house was not the biggest place around and it seemed even smaller with so many children squeezed inside. Small and surprisingly quiet. All of the shouting and laughter that had been going on earlier outside had stopped. The wind was howling now and the house was starting to shake. We were scared. And then it got worse. Now the house was beginning to sway. The wood plank flooring beneath us began to bend. And then, a corner of the room started lifting up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This storm was actually pulling the house toward the sky. With us inside it. That was when Aunt Seneva told us to clasp hands. Line up and hold hands she said, and we did as we were told. Then she had us walk as a group toward the corner of the room that was rising. From the kitchen to the front of the house we walked, the wind screaming outside, sheets of rain beating on the tin roof. Then we walked back in the other direction, as another end of the house began to lift. And so it went, back and forth, fifteen children, walking with the wind, holding that trembling house down with the weight of our small bodies.

“More than half a century has passed since that day, and it has struck me more than once over those many years that our society is not unlike the children in that house, rocked again and again by the winds of one storm or another; the walls around us seeming, at times, as if they might fly apart. But we never leave the house; we never run away. We stay, we come together and we do the best that we can, clasping hands and moving toward the corner of the house that is the weakest. Then another corner will lift and we will go there. And we know that another storm will come and we will have to do it all over again. And we will. And we do, all of us, together. You and I, children holding hands, walking with the wind. That is America to me.”

This is a story about HaShem Echad, the Oneness of G-d, which embraces and holds each one of us in a strong weave of interconnectedness and wholeness; it is about chazak ve’ematz, strength and courage, in the face of danger and uncertainty. It is about how strong we are together, clasping hands, doing the work, methodically and steadily, holding onto each other for dear, sweet life. And it is a story about tikvah, hope. There are so many problems avalanching around us in our world; despair is strong, but we are stronger; hopelessness is compelling, but our hopes are greater; our actions against despair, intense and fervent. We wrap ourselves in a Torah of Hope and Bravery and we do not succumb to fear. We grasp our tsitsit, our knotted fringes, and we do the work, mitzvah, (commandment) by mitzvah. We carry hope in our hearts and our hands; with strength and courage at the ready. Talmud Yerushalmi, the Jerusalem Talmud, states, “As long as a person breathes, that person should not lose hope.” We are breathing. We are standing together; we have a firm grip on one another. Hope is the way we will continue to breathe; the way we will stand up to violence and hatred and bigotry; and all of the problems that would overwhelm us; the way we will walk in the wind together.