by Ellen Kraftsow-Kogan, presented at July 8 Shabbat service
I could not think of a moment of God in my life, BUT, I could think of a profound moment, then realized that of course, it definitely is a moment about God’s presence in my life. My example occurred when I became a grandmother, but, please, stay “tuned in” even if this is not a pertinent example for you. It is only an example of how love can be a profound moment for each and every one of us, in diverse ways. We all feel that we are witnessing a miracle, a gift from God, when a baby, especially our own baby, is born. When our granddaughter, Eliora, first came into the world I witnessed the gift of love. My feelings about her were palpable, but what I am talking about is actually “seeing” the feelings that emanated from Carrie and Jim toward their baby Eliora. Their love was so strong that it seemed to have its own presence. At that moment, I witnessed people’s innate capacity to love. Although I didn’t discuss it at the time, upon reflection I realized that I had been looking at a profound moment. Parents meeting their baby; grandparents meeting their granddaughter; parents seeing their own children become parents. And, babies instantly bonding with Mommy and Daddy. Additionally, it is the moment that a new love is born, and that is the profound moment that I want to discuss. Of course we all love our parents and, later, if we have them, our children. But it was not until I became a grandparent that I reflected on the importance of love at the same time that I was feeling this exhilarating emotion. That is because I could literally “see” this feeling. Awe, nurturing, caring, protection, joy, fatigue, and more all showed on Carrie’s and Jim’s faces as the welcomed Eliora into their family. Their body language showed love, too, even in the midst of extreme fatigue – cuddling, cooing, soothing, smiling, laughing – you know how new parents look and act. The difference for me was that, at the same time that I was engaged, I could observe: witnessing this instant connection of love which will see them through a lifetime of exhilarating and difficult moments, along with everything in between. That was my unexpected profound moment. I think God gives us the capacity to love. What we do with it is up to us, but the gift is innate. Just as we cannot define God, we cannot define love, but, as Rabbi Kuhn has said, we recognize both when we see/feel them. That is profound. Love is the intangible “thing” that touches all of us. In addition to being the overwhelming feeling we have for our progeny, we all know that we can feel it for a husband or wife, brother or sister. Many of us have that experience and can relate to it. Babies and young children feel it for mommy and daddy, Mom Mom and Pop Pop. With rare exceptions, we all have had that kind of love in our lives. Hopefully, this love between the generations lasts for many years, as I have been fortunate enough to share with my mom, Freddy, who is here tonight. We take the love between close family members for granted, but when we step back and look at our loving relationships, we realize how profound they are, how greatly they impact our lives. What about love makes life so special? We find it not just with family, but with friends, too. A friend who had recently lost a beloved brother explained how she felt at Shabbat services shortly after her loss. She felt enveloped by the warmth of our community. I saw her saddened expression change as we were leaving the sanctuary, when congregants, her community of loving friends, took time to express their condolences. Reading the Shabbat Evening prayers with an eye toward the inclusion of love in our service, I noticed anew the words of “Hashkiveinu” which include “You are true protection and safety; in Your Presence we find love and acceptance.” (p. 153). Again, in the hymn “Birkat Hagomeil” we sing “Creator of wonders, compassion and hope, bless us with healing, surround us with love.” (p. 373). The Shema in Deuteronomy commands us: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” We, I know I, often take the existence of love for granted, not focusing on what an extraordinary emotion it is. Rereading it in the Torah and the prayer book reminds me of its importance, so much so that we talk about it repeatedly in our relationship with God as well as with the people we cherish. It is a gift that we are capable of; else we would not be commanded to use it. It is our responsibility and joy to do so. We can love in many ways. It is a profound feeling. Our conversation this summer is about profound moments. Webster’s tells us that, among other things, “profound” means “penetrating to the depths of one’s being.” Love fits this definition, which affirms my feeling that the capacity to love is, in itself, “profound.” I marveled at it when I fell in love with Mark, then again when our children, Carrie and Peter, were born. In between, I took it for granted until Eliora’s birth rekindled my appreciation of just how extraordinary it is that we all have this amazing emotion. I wish each of you a Shabbat Shalom – with love.