Rabbi Ilyse on a light blue background, banner reads The Word from the DJC.

IntRIGuing Thoughts

Reflections on our recent Multifaith Vigil

A learned rabbi once asked her students how they could tell when the night had ended and day had begun. “Could it be,” said one student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell if it is a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi. Another asked, “Is it when you can look at a distant tree and tell if it is a fig tree or a peach tree? “Not quite,” answered the rabbi. After several other students tried to answer the rabbi’s question, all without success, the rabbi spoke: “The night has ended and the day has begun … when you can look upon the face of any man or woman – any human being – and see that it is your sibling. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night.”

based on Berachot 9b

These are the opening words of my remarks that I offered at this past Sunday’s Multifaith Vigil. It was a beautiful gathering of hundreds of people from the east end of Toronto and beyond who came together to pray, offer and listen to blessings of hope and peace, sing, and weep. 

In these terrible times of violence and hatred, of people not knowing how to talk to each other, this gathering was a comfort for me and for everyone who was in attendance. 

What I experienced on Sunday was the best of who we are. It was truly looking into each other’s eyes – a stranger’s eyes, a neighbour’s eyes, a fellow human being’s eyes – and seeing their enduring humanity. This, I believe, is where most of us live: in the greyer areas of pain and confusion, of questioning, and a desire to learn and to share. 

May our hearts be buoyed by such a gathering and may it give us strength to continue to pursue peace and justice alongside our East Toronto Multifaith Community.

O Holy One, O Source of All, have mercy and show compassion to your human family. Help us to hear the voiceless and see the oppressed. Help us see our sisters and brothers, for we yearn for dawn to break. Free us from constriction of mind and heart, that Your Great Love may be felt in every corner of the earth. 


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