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Turning Towards Relationships

Published in Ayeka by Debra Shaffer Seeman
Posted on May 24, 2020

Last week was hard. It was raw and messy, replete with mediocre parenting, a sense of working harder than ever before, and an awareness that we – and those we love – were treading water at best. This week was hard. Wants morphed into needs, the shiny potentialities presented by COVID-19 became tarnished, and respite felt out of reach. The uprooting of routine has taken its toll, but the inability to connect up close with those we love weighs heavier still. 

It’s the nurturant energy of those in-person connections that root us, enabling the unspoken conversations to unfold. We read in Mishlei (27:19) 

“כַּ֭מַּיִם הַפָּנִ֣ים לַפָּנִ֑ים כֵּ֤ן לֵֽב־הָ֝אָדָ֗ם לָאָדָֽם” 

“Just as face is to face in water, so too is the heart of one man to another.” 

Perhaps, King Solomon whispers, when one is close enough to the water to be reflected back, when one is privileged to truly see and be seen by another, when the relationship is deep enough to embody and give back that which I/they/we hold within, our hearts hold that synchronicity.  I yearn for the moment when the health and nurturant capacity of relationships become our most valued cultural currency.

In the Book of Ruth, read every Shavuot, the book’s namesake loses everything. Her former life is no longer, her world rocked by famine. Facing the same circumstances, her sister-in-law Orpah turns back towards her family of origin. Ruth, however, does something quite beautiful when faced with her new reality. Rather than blanketing herself in safety or losing herself in the depth of her losses, Ruth chooses to cling to another. She pivots, but not towards solitude. She turns towards relationship and leans into the depth of her love for Naomi. As Ruth moves forward into an unexpected and unpredictable future, she chooses the opposite of social distancing. And with that choice, she binds her destiny to Naomi’s. “For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.”