From The Innkeepers

February 2024


February 2024 Blog
A Lesson For Today Based On the Wisdom of the Past

I recently began reading a new book called “The Amen Effect” by Rabbi Sharon Brous.  I am only through the first few chapters, and am looking forward to the complete work because its wisdom is so simple yet so profound and very applicable to our lives in the 21st century. In the beginning of her book, Rabbi Brous shares an ancient Jewish concept that has the potential to re-frame how we interact with one another and how we treat each other.  She found the idea in a third century Jewish text called the Mishnah.  The long and the short of it was that around the 2nd century this ritual was common practice at the Second Temple of Jerusalem.  Visitors would climb the temple steps of the Temple Mount and enter turning to the right of the central plaza circling counterclockwise.

Meanwhile those who were in mourning from the loss of a loved one or suffering from either physical disease or emotional problems, were to enter from the left and circle from the opposite direction.  Each person who entered from the right was instructed to stop when they encountered a person who had entered from the left. The goal is to never just walk by a person who is hurting.  The ritual demanded that they not only stop to look at them, but also to talk to the person and ask them “What has happened to you? Why does your heart ache?”  After listening to the reason for a person’s suffering, the person who had entered from the right would offer a blessing: “May you be comforted” or “Know that you are not alone”.  A blessing can be a powerful thing.  It can open the receiver to the wholeness that waits for them on the other side of their grief.  Once the blessing is given then both people move on until they encounter someone else walking past them.  This ritual is elegant in its simplicity and power to change lives.  It is a practice in letting people know that they are not alone.  It is not an instant cure for someone’s pain, it is a simple showing up for one another.  We often want to shrink away from each other and not feel responsible for another’s sorrow.  This was an ancient way of “showing up” for each other, of taking care of the ones who are hurting. 

Few of us would ever have the opportunity to attend such a ritual at Rabbi Brous’ Jewish community in Los Angeles.  I imagine that if we did it would be life altering.  But knowing the existence of this ritual can peak our awareness of other people who cross our paths at a time when they are suffering, and instruct us on how to reach out to them.  Our reaching out does not have to be anything elaborate.  It does not imply that you are my problem solver. It simply asks that we be open enough to inquire what has happened to someone else.  It asks that we listen.  It only asks us to care enough to find out what causes their pain.  It asks us to be present for each other.  Hallmark cards has a company advertising logo that says, “When you care enough, send the very best…”.   The slogan of this ritual could be, “When you care enough, bring me into your circle of caring, help hold me in my grief.”

 In a culture that is as divided as ours we could re-frame the way we interact with one another in this simplest of ways.  People need to be listened to.  In the last 18 months here at the inn, we have had an opportunity to open our circle of caring with three long -time friends, each of whom was dying of cancer.  With each person, I had the privilege of just sitting with them.  In some instances, just holding their hand while they walked me through parts of their cancer journey.  In other instances, it was important to listen to why they still had some hope for remissions; with someone it was a case of being with them because they knew that in all likelihood we were maybe not going to see one another again in this lifetime.  It is a profound privilege to bear witness to a life.

This upcoming month we celebrate the feast of St. Valentine.  Don’t just fall into the commercial trap of gifts of candy, flowers, or cards to those you love.  Give a hug to someone who needs it.  Spend time with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily take time to be with.  Be especially grateful for those you love, and for those who love you.

In ending I’ll share a quote by a Balinese dancer that was given to me by Jan Phillips.  “There is someone in this world who needs you.  Live your life so they can find you.”

Let’s just all promise to do that. 

Blessings to you from Marcia, Pat, Sharon, and Ryan

Keepers of the Rustic Gate