Shabbat Hazon and Senseless Acts of Kindness

Thursday, 26th July 2012 / 7th Av 5772
Geneva, Illinois

Dear All,

I’ve spent the last few days with the Cross-USA riders and it’s been an inspiring and fascinating experience (and there are photos and stories online.)

Because the shabbat before tisha b’av is known as Shabbat Hazon, I’m often especially aware of this time of year. I wrote last week about Tisha B’Av in relation to mourning and hope. I wanted to add something this week about sinat chinam and ahavat chinam.

The rabbis attributed the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem – one of the reasons we fast on Tisha B’Av – to sinat chinam, which means something like “groundless hatred.” (If you’ve never read the famous Talmudic story about Kamtza and bar Kamtza, you should. It’s a fascinating story, and it remains a cautionary tale in so many ways.)

In Madison, WI on Friday night.

But I want to share with you that the Cross-USA Ride is a daily living reminder of the antidote to sinat chinam ahavat chinam. Colloquially, we might translate it as “senseless acts of random kindness.” Just this week alone:

  • We were hosted by Reform, Conservative, and Chabad communities in Madison, WI.
  • On Monday night, we were at the wonderful Congregation Emanu-El  B’ne Jeshurun near Milwaukee – a stunningly beautiful shul in which members of the community happily ferried our riders for showers, then ferried us back, and then got up at the crack-of-day to get our riders back to shul by 6 AM.
  • Tuesday lunch we visited – for the second time in 12 years – the synagogue in Kenosha, WI, and met the community there – and they gave us lunch.
  • Then Tuesday evening we were hosted by North Shore Congregation Israel. The local funeral home – I’m genuinely sorry I don’t have their name – donated a long black limo to shuttle riders to the JCC for us to shower – and the JCC stayed open a tad later to accommodate riders who’d ridden 86 miles that day (!) and got in slightly late. Meantime, the amazing Pam & Larry Faulkner of Green Bay Cycles gave us dinner, and provided mechanics to help fix our bikes.
  • And right now I’m writing from the home of the remarkable Margulies family in Geneva, IL, who put us up last night, fed us with incredible food from their farm, and where today we’re doing a service afternoon on their Pushing the Envelope Farm – though, truthfully, I know that we will gain far more from it than we will give.

And of course a huge thanks to everyone who’s hosted or is supporting our riders. We simply could not be doing this right without you.

My point is simply this: in the big coastal cities – NY and LA and Boston and SF – we live good and rich lives; but part of the nature of cities is that they afford anonymity as well as community. It’s entirely possible to live one’s life without ever asking for help, or offering it.

Riders at Lake Michigan in front of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, IL

The ride is the absolute antidote to that. Being on the ride we constantly ask for – and need – support of all sorts – and constantly receive it. And along the way we offer seeds of inspiration and ideas. (In Kenosha we suggested they think about launching a multi-faith CSA: they like the idea, and are thinking about it. And from the amazing Premacks in Aberdeen, SD – where we made a minyan for the second time in 12 years – we just got a note from them saying, “and we’ve been inspired – we’ve decided we’re going to start using guitars and drums for Kabbalat Shabbat. (The Premacks are, I think, in their mid-70s – or perhaps a tad more.)

So: enjoy Shabbat Hazon, and if you’re fasting on Sunday, fast well. May our visions of doom and gloom not come to fruition; and may the best of our hazon help make the world a better place for all.

Shabbat Shalom,


Nigel Savage
Executive Director, Hazon

P.S. You should know that you can still join for the last week of the trip from Pittsburgh to DC. If that’s too last minute, it’s not too late to sign up for our Israel Ride, where you’ll find the people you meet are just as inspiring.


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