Feels Good/Hard Wired

by Rabbi Andy Bachman

More than 3,000 meals today.

More batteries, paper towels, toilet paper, candles and breakfast bars than you care to know. But such an awe-inspiring outpouring of love, generosity and purpose: It turns out prayer might be true.

I’m a skeptic when it comes to faith. I practice. I believe. But I don’t await results. Naturally so. I really don’t have a particularly deep answer for why that is. And yet, whenever there’s a crisis of deeply human proportions, I’m always stricken with awe at the human capacity to transcend its own worst instincts, to rise to its best ones, and to love fully and unconditionally its fellow man, woman, child or beast.

Why is that?
Throughout the day today, I’ve seen people enter our synagogue from all walks of life:  orthodox Jews and orthodox Christians; Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus; secular Jews and secular whomevers; faithful ones from all the sectors of every shape, dimension and size;  Greeks, Italians, Russians, Israelis, Argentinians, Chinese, Japanese, African Americans, French, German, English, Irish, Australian, women, children and men–and many, many more–and never, ever, throughout the day, did it matter “who you were” as much as it mattered “where you were going”: to Rockaways or Coney Island; to Red Hook or Canarsie–with food, batteries, paper towels, toilet paper, candles and breakfasts bars–more than you care to know or can ever comprehend.

Today people sacrificed family time; personal time; family safety; personal safety.  Why?  Why do people give against their own self-interest?

Of course, maybe the question is wrong.

Maybe we should ask it this way:

Why, despite the erroneous perception that it’s against their self-interest, do people transcend their own individuality in order to connect to a larger spirit, a larger organizing morality, a greater connection to a multiple humanity, a gloriously diverse and cacophonously messy whole?

Two reasons.

One, it feels good.

Two, we’re hard-wired this way.

I saw both today, and all week, in full force.

On several occasions, while out walking from home to shul or from shul to home, I consulted God on the matter.

He didn’t answer directly.

But He kept sending people to the synagogue to help.


Rabbi Andy Bachman is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Originally posted at Water Over Rocks