Gosh, there's so much heaviness we could talk about this week. I've been distraught about the series of bomb threats at historically black colleges, and my brain is swirling with so many questions that have been stirred up around antisemitism this week (Maus, Whoopi Goldberg, graffiti, Tucker Carlson, etc.). If any of these topics don't ring a bell, I encourage you to search them online and read up -- there are many great articles and takes out there already!
Gosh, there's so much heaviness we could talk about this week. I've been distraught about the series of bomb threats at historically black colleges, and my brain is swirling with so many questions that have been stirred up around antisemitism this week (Maus, Whoopi Goldberg, graffiti, Tucker Carlson, etc.). If any of these topics don't ring a bell, I encourage you to search them online and read up -- there are many great articles and takes out there already! -- and you're always welcome to reach out to me directly if you want support in processing any of these topics that intersect with our Jewish values and identities.
Meanwhile, though, yesterday was Rosh Chodesh Adar, the beginning of a particularly lucky and happy month on the Jewish calendar, and that's where I'd like to focus today, highlighting a few particular aspects of this time:
1. This year, we will be fortunate enough to experience a double dose of Adar joy, since this is a Hebrew calendar leap year. Unlike the Gregorian calendar, which follows the sun -- with 365 days in most years and a 366th once every four years -- the Hebrew calendar is a lunar one. However, 12 lunar months does not provide enough days to keep Jewish time running in sync with the solar year and its cycles. In ancient times, the rabbis calculated that by adding an extra lunar month 7 times in every 19 years, they could keep these two calendar systems synced. Historically, the month of Nissan (when Pesach falls) was considered the first month, and the extra month got tacked on at the end of the year with a doubling of the twelfth month... thus, we get to celebrate the month of Adar twice this year, with Adar Rishon, first Adar, and Adar Sheni, second Adar. In leap years like this one, Purim falls in the second of the two months; however, the associated "simcha v'sasson" ("joy and gladness") extends throughout both of the two months of Adar!
2. The Torah readings for this week (Parashat Terumah) and the coming few weeks all focus on the creativity and craftsmanship that was required to construct the Mishkan, the holy space where the Israelites and God could meet up with one another, and all of its component parts and accoutrements. The Torah's materials list is incredible -- gold, silver, and copper; blue, purple and crimson yarns; fine linen and goats' hair; tanned ram skins, dolphin skins and acacia wood; oil and spices; precious stones and more(!) -- and the artistry must have ranged from weaving and intricate metal-work to woodwork and architectural building. Jumping off from Parashat Terumah, artist and song-writer Julie Geller writes: "Your art, your creation, your ideas - each is Divine. The skill we can learn to cultivate is allowing the natural Divinity of our creative work to flow through us." Of course, there's no one right way to engage in creative work. Last weekend, creation happened in 6 different kitchens, as the chefs and bakers of Kavana's Caring Committee whipped up nourishing soups and stews and tasty treats that will be used to support members of the Kavana community (see photos below). This weekend, there will be opportunities to weave song and prayer with Traci Marx during our Kabbalat Shabbat service tomorrow night, to bring creativity to bear around climate change and social justice issues with the Dayenu Circle and Tzedek & Tikkun groups, and to actually create art of your own through our Rosh Chodesh Art Makerspace. Whatever your materials and craft of choice, Adar is a great time of year to let the creative juices flow!
3. The Mishnah (in Shekalim) describes that in ancient times, the month of Adar was a time for public works and infrastructure building: the repairing of roads and highways and mikvaot, the construction of new cisterns, the upkeep of graves in cemeteries. Infrastructure may not feel like the most exciting topic, but the collapse of a bridge in Pittsburgh last week cautions us that we cannot afford to ignore it. On a more metaphoric and spiritual level, this aspect of Adar also points to the ongoing task of strengthening ourselves from the inside out, ensuring that we have the technical structures we need to support our values and visions. During the coming two months of Adar and beyond, with the support of Project Accelerate, Kavana is turning attention to capacity building and infrastructure development in order to support the continued healthy growth of Kavana's work (stay tuned, as I'll have more to share on this topic over the coming months).
The bottom line: this year, we have the gift of two full lunar months of time to devote to cultivating joy, honing creative skills, and strengthening infrastructure. How will you make the most of this opportunity?
Wishing you a wonderful double month of Adar - Chodesh Tov (x2)!!
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
The decisions handed down by the Supreme Court over the past week have been gut-wrenching. I know that many of you are sharing in my experience of grief and anger, and contending with a sense of disequilibrium, as we are forced to grapple anew with what kind of a country we’re living in. There’s a human fantasy that we can make the world work the way it should. But the radical shifts we’re witnessing in our country’s direction are reminding us of the fact that real life doesn’t work this way.
We begin our Torah portion with a minor textual dilemma. By the time we end the portion, the Israelites will have faced a major spiritual dilemma - and failed. I think the two dilemmas are related.
This week's Torah portion, Parashat Beha'alotecha, opens with instructions about how to set up a "menorah" -- literally, a lamp-stand or light source -- in the mishkan. Thus it happens that the haftarah (prophetic reading assigned to accompany a particular Torah portion) for Beha'alotecha is the same one we read on Shabbat Chanukah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7.