“husa”

The poem “Compassion”, (published in the collection of Miller Williams’ poems, “The Ways We Touch: Poems”) has these profound lines:

Have compassion for everyone you meet,

even if they don’t want it. What seems conceit, 

bad manners, or cynicism is always a sign 

of things no ears have heard, no eyes have seen.

You do not know what wars are going on

down there where the spirit meets the bone.

In a section of the “Mahabharata” (translated by Bibek Debroy) titled “Markandeya Samasya Parva”, we read an illuminating conversation between a meat seller and a Brahmin (who, owing to his conceit, is asked by a lady to learn from the meat seller). Speaking about dharma, the meat seller says: “The virtuous are those who are compassionate towards everything.”

Painting by Pooja Bhatt

In “Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul”, a moving book inspired by correspondence between Albert Einstein and a grieving Rabbi, Naomi Levy introduces us to the Hebrew word “husa”“a word that appears repeatedly in Jewish prayers.”

“What is husa? What does it mean?”, the Rabbi Naomi asks. She answers: “It’s not pity, not mercy….Husa is the special kind of love that an artist has for his or her own creation, even when it’s imperfect. That’s the key to husa. It’s a compassion for something that’s flawed. Husa involves the absence of judgement. That’s why Jews turn to God and ask for husa in their prayers: “The soul is Yours, the body is Your creation, husa, have compassion for Your work.””

And what the person in such prayer hears is “a voice of compassion that says: Try again, it’s okay, pick yourself up.”

Peace 🙂

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