“Sometimes doctors have to break things before they heal them,” Meredith Grey recently said in one of her famous Grey’s Anatomy voiceovers. I wasn’t actually watching the show, but just passing through a room where someone else was watching. The words sort of seeped into my subconscious, the way so much of the Jewish prayer does when you are listening absentmindedly to someone else reading the words.
“Sometimes,” she continued (trigger warning: graphic content ahead), “if a broken bone did not set right, we have to break it again and reset it.” Ouch. Seriously, ouch.
Once I got over my squeamishness, I realized that this metaphor really speaks to me. Actually, I think it describes me. And perhaps also much of the world.
I am broken. I have been broken by flawed ideas that seek to own me, by people who were supposed to love me, by societies and communities that treat people like me as objects rather than as human. I have been broken by words and by deeds, by individuals and by groups, by others and ultimately by myself.
But now, I am the one who has done the breaking.
I broke out, I broke free, I broke norms, I broke conventions, I broke expectations, I broke rules established by others, I broke down ideas that are wrong, I broke gender constructs, and I finally broke through.
My decision to become a Reform rabbi is about all of this. It is about breaking what was already broken in order to create something that is healthy and healing.
I thought about this around yesterday’s Torah portion as well, Noach. This is a story about a great being (God) who created a great thing (The World) and then broke it all (via flood) in order to start again. Ouch.
Reading this, you can’t help but wonder why God thought that this was the only option. Did he really have to break the entire world? Wasn’t there any good in it?
I guess God knows, as Meredith Grey knows, that sometimes there is no way to fix something other than to start all over.
I think about this regarding the world we are living in now. We are living in such a broken place. The election of Trump was the act of such wanton destruction. His election broke so much. It broke hope, it broke integrity, it broke belief in humanity, it broke compassion, it broke decency, it broke honesty, it broke care, it broke logic, it broke truth, it broke progress, it broke bridges, it broke connections, it broke cooperation, it broke generosity, and it broke the movement towards creating a better world. We are all experiencing the impacts of that breaking on a regular basis.
And there is so much that is breaking that he allows to continue to break. Floods. Fires. Hurricanes. Mass shootings. One after another, breaking, breaking, breaking.
And he does this actively and on purpose, not just by neglect or stupidity. Trump seeks to continue breaking everything that he can. He is trying to break health care, to break education, to break justice, to break the economy, to break poor people, to break women, to break people of color, to break Muslims, to break immigrants, to break the media, to break democracy, to break history, to break America, to break alliances, maybe even to break the world. It looks that way some days. It looks like he might actually want to start a world war. That is the breaking that we are in the midst of.
Sometimes if something is so broken that it is beyond repair, you have to break it again and start all over.
This is what I am thinking about.
What does it mean to break this world completely in order to start again, in order to undo all this brokenness?
What does it mean to break the trump world in order to rebuild a better world?
I don't know how to answer these questions. I would love to hear your thoughts.