Synagogue’s Dr. Jeff Cohen: Who Each of Us Can Be, If We Are Only Willing!

 
 

Britain’s Channel 4 News put up a tweet that had the rare effect of taking social media furies out of themselves for a few minutes in admiration of one man’s wisdom and humility. Dr. Jeff Cohen, a member of the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and a physician who oversaw the medical treatment of the man who senselessly killed 11 of its elders, had a lesson to teach the whole nation about how serving something greater than the self brings out a paradoxically humble greatness in humanity. Watch this:

Anyone who has spent any time on social media knows the drill: Dont read the comments.” But in this case, do read the comments that accompany this tweet.

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I think my favorite response of all is this one, by somebody whose handle reads “Burn it all Down”:

 

Grace, indeed — so transparent that someone who professes to want to watch the world burn can recognize it, be awed by it, and account it an unabashedly good thing.

Many tweeps said Dr. Cohen was a better man than they, or expressed doubt that they could ever give voice to such sentiments under the same circumstances.

But that’s the thing about grace, real authentic grace: its not denied to any of us, and it is not only meted out to “the worthiest people”, whoever they are.

Grace is available to all of us, and finding oneself the beneficiary of grace has little to do with worthiness, and everything to do with one’s willingness. A willingness to co-operate with the Creator who is the author and giver of all graces.

God’s creative nature is nothing but relentless generosity — the universe is still expanding from the force of his great “YES!” of assent that put all things in motion — and to pursue a relationship with God is the first step to our own growth in spiritual and human generosity. “Knowledge must precede love,” wrote Catherine of Siena, in her Dialogues. While God is wholly unknowable, the more we pursue the source of all that is True, whose being is all that is Love, the more we will grow in truth. The more connected we will be with love, ourselves.

It is precisely that willingness to pursue Truth and Love that renders one able to co-operate with grace in challenging, unimaginable moments. What Dr. Cohen has modeled for all of us, in this brief interview, is the ironic power that comes from making a habit of serving something greater than one’s self.

It’s for You and for Me
A friend suggested that she could never be the sort of person Dr. Jeff Cohen is, but that’s really not true. This is the sort of person we each of us can be, if we are simply willing to take the servant’s place, traveling the more humble route by serving something greater than our own wrath, our own opinions, our own egos, our own enthrallments. Our own desires; our own vengeful instincts, our own need for echoing validations.

Dr. Cohen is a man of faith and science; he humbly serves both before his own feelings, and therefore is working at a very high level of human integrity and generosity.

And yes, we need to see more people like him — people who are admirable precisely because they are not content to live within the muddy dregs of hatred, sinking ever lower through the weight of loathing and resentment all-too willingly embraced and habituated.

In truth, we can be the very “more people like him” we want to see. All it takes is a little willingness to believe we don’t know everything — a willingness to look beyond what is before us, and ask “God, are you there? How can I help?”

And even, perhaps, a willingness to spend some time in a faith community and consent to be taught about the what it means to light a candle and be enclosed in a dialogue of prayerful questions and surprising answers.

So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. – Hebrews 4:16

May God’s blessings descend upon Dr. Jeff Cohen and all of the medical personnel and first responders who have been involved in this tragedy; may be make his face to shine upon the Tree of Life community and the residents of Squirrel Hill, Pennsylvania, and give us peace.

And may all of us who have found ourselves touched by the evidence of grace in Dr. Cohen’s words and actions have the courage to pursue those means by which grace may become active in our lives, for the good of the whole world. Amen.

Image: Channel 4 News

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2018-10-29T23:29:22+00:00

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