Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater, Huffington Post, Feb.26, www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-joshua-levine-grater/what-i-learned-from-desmo_b_828388.html
I was nervous about going to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu this past Sunday at All-Saints Church. I was nervous because, despite his remarkable life story, which of course includes fighting and winning the battle against apartheid in his homeland, South Africa, he has made comments in the past about Israel and the Palestinians that have made him unwelcome in the mainstream Jewish community. So, in choosing to attend the service, sit in the VIP section up front, alongside other dignitaries, interfaith leaders and Hollywood actors, among others, rather than stand outside with a picket sign, as I imagine some in our community would have rather me do, I was nervous about what I might hear from this renowned voice for civil and human rights, especially in light of the fact that just two days earlier, the United States had chosen to veto a U.N. resolution calling the Israeli settlements illegal, even though our stated foreign policy agrees with that resolution, not to mention all of the unrest and turmoil in the greater Middle East. I sat anxiously, surrounded by Muslims and Christians, and because it is an Episcopal Church, a few Jews as well, and waited for Bishop Tutu to preach.
He is about to turn 80, but he has a presence and fortitude that belies his age. Not much more than 5’4″ tall, a higher pitched and sweet sounding voice emanates from his throat, overlaid with an accent that sometimes makes him hard to understand. He rose to speak, looking out over the capacity filled church, including hundreds watching on video monitors outside, and gave us the following message: God is holy, therefore we are all holy; we are God carriers, God’s stand-ins, God’s viceroys. He told us that each human being, no matter what color of skin they have, is created in God’s image, therefore is a piece of God, therefore is holy, therefore deserves respect, dignity, compassion and love. It was a message of deep spiritual depth, one that he brought around for just a moment, at the very end, to today’s reality.