Stand By Me

This posting is based on the d’var Torah I delivered this past Friday evening.

Today, I read the news of a man whose name will be familiar to some of you. His name was Ben E. King. Ben E. King recorded many songs during the 1960s but the one for which he is most famous is entitled: “Stand By Me”. Stand By Me is one of my favorites: a beautiful and sweet love song in which the singer reminds the one he loves that he will be able to withstand all of the difficulties of life as long as “you stand by me”.

The song’s lyrics include these words:
“If the sky we look upon should tumble and fall and the mountains should crumble to the sea.
I won’t cry, I won’t cry, no I won’t shed a tear just as long as you stand by me.”

I read that these lyrics were actually inspired by two verses in Psalm 46:
“Therefore will we not fear, though the earth changes, and though the mountains be moved into the heart of the seas;” This really does not surprise me for while the song is clearly meant to be sung to another individual, it could easily be seen as being sung to God, a call to feel God’s presence even in difficult times, even through the changes of the natural world. But, to me, this song will always be about the need we all have to feel like the ones we love stand by us when life turns difficult.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read the words: “You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy”. This section of Leviticus is often referred to as the “holiness code” and contains instructions for building a holy community. The portion offers many instructions for building that holy community including not to put a stumbling block before the blind and to love one’s neighbor as oneself. But, in addition to all of these instructions, we might add that a holy community is one in which people stand by each other. One of the realities which help us most in times of trouble is knowing that there are others: family and friends who stand with us against the pain of the world.

The song Stand By Me lent its name to a classic movie from 1986. In the movie Stand By Me, four boys, best friends, stand against the world as they spend their last weekend together before entering Junior High School. There is so much to love about this movie but to me the most meaningful part is to see these four boys standing together, overcoming any squabbles they might have to stand with each other against the world which they feel either misunderstands them or rejects them. They formed, in their own way, a kehilla kedosha, a holy community and it guides them in their question during that one weekend.

May we all stand by those around us, supporting, encouraging and comforting when we are needed to do so. And, may we always feel God’s presence standing by us as well.

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