In her book The Weight of Ink, the author Rachel Kadish tells the fictionalized history of a young Jewish woman in the 1600s, Ester, who loses both of her parents in a fire in Amsterdam and is sent to work for a blind rabbi in London. Her job is to write down his thoughts and letters to his students all over Europe. Ester loves the rabbi like a father, but finds herself writing her own letters using his name to some of the greatest minds in Europe. She can’t reveal her true identity as a woman or she will be thrown out on the street. So, she is caught between her love for the rabbi and the love of her ideas. Complicating matters further, she falls into love with a young Christian poet. Now she is pulled in three directions by three different loves: the rabbi, her mind and her forbidden lover. She feels crushed by the weight of it all. The plague takes her poet lover and then the rabbi and she is left with the love of her mind. She goes on to correspond with such Enlightenment philosophers as Spinoza, under an assumed male name. Her brilliance may have changed the course of modern thought. All from the interplay of love.
I have always been fascinated by the many facets of love: romantic love (eros), love of friends, love of family, love of the other, and love for all humankind, even if that love is not returned (agape). Why do we have so many kinds of love and only one word for it in English? Why not as many words for love as the Eskimos have for snow? On bad days, I can dismiss love as Tina Turner sang “just another second hand emotion.” Until I remember that almost all of what holds us together here is love, a weightier love, love that is the spirit of this congregation. At the end of the day, we have to lean on the ones we love if we are to survive. All of us have to lean on love; our children need our help over the years, and someday we will lean on them. Love is both crazy and all that we have.
On this Valentine’s Day I do hope you will reach to whomever you love and let them know how much they mean to you. I leave you with this blessing from my colleague Rev. Kevin Tarsa:
Just when the weight of the world I inhabit
threatens to drop me in place
and press my hope down into the ground beneath me
Love invites me to rest for a gentle while,
and leads the center of my soul to the quiet, still,
restoring waters nearby that,
I had not noticed.
And so, Love,
sets me once again on its tender and demanding path.
Go shining beloveds, Rev. John