In the mode of Hod, this week, we strive for splendor through humility and acceptance.
We are still counting, as we continue our journey through the Omer period. Last week I wrote about the quality of Netzach - and how Jewish tradition teaches us to dig deep to find the fortitude and endurance we need to prevail. Today, as we conclude our fifth week of counting, we dwell inside the Divine aspect of Hod, which sits precisely opposite Netzach on the Kabbalistic map of the sefirot. There are times when the Netzach mode of digging in our heels and putting up a fight serves us well, but other times when it just doesn't make sense... and when we are better served by acknowledging that which we can't change and accepting it. In the mode of Hod, this week, we strive for splendor through humility and acceptance.
This week, I've been thinking back to the very first week of March, when Kavana wrestled with what to do about our community Purim megillah reading. You may recall that at that point, the first Covid deaths had just been announced here in King County, and most of us were still going to work and school, but we were already washing our hands and wiping down surfaces frequently. I remember struggling mightily with this hard call: I feared I would be letting our community down by not bringing people together in person to observe the holiday of Purim, but I was also nervous about the risks of gathering, especially as a large multi-generational group. Behind the scenes, staff members and board members and community members were all involved in the conversation, which generated a flurry of texts and emails... and so much angst. Once we finally made the decision to turn our Purim celebration into a virtual gathering, I suddenly found I could relax and breathe again (and, it turned out that our virtual Megillah reading was really pretty great!). For me, this was an illustration of Hod in action -- a time when the most beautiful path forward actually involved humbly submitting to forces beyond our control.
Ten-and-a-half weeks have gone by since then... ten-and-a-half weeks of Kavana existing with no in-person gatherings whatsoever. While trying to build an authentic, tightly-knit, meaningful Jewish community online has its challenges -- and absolutely isn't the same as being able to see each other in person -- I have found comfort in settling into this new reality. Our Virtual Candle-Lighting each Friday night has become such an important touch-point that a number of you have suggested we make this a permanent feature at Kavana moving forward. This week, I heard one set of parents describe Kavana's creative online kids' education programs as providing a "lifeline" for their children during this stay-at-home period. Kavana community members have supported each other in a whole host of ways, from food delivery to phone check-ins.
Accepting and leaning into the virtual realities of the moment has also opened up a whole host of new creative possibilities for how we here in Seattle can be part of broader Jewish endeavors. As we prepare for Shavuot, we couldn't be more excited about The Great Big Jewish Food Fest (May 19-28, a brainchild of our very own Kavana partner Lisa Colton!), and also about a special Tikkun Leil Shavuot called "DAWN" sponsored by Reboot and the Jewish Emergent Network. See below for more info about both of these incredible events!
Now, as Kavana is actively planning and budgeting for the coming year, I can already feel that things will get harder again as we move through the re-opening phases and have new, difficult decisions to make. We don't yet have all the answers about how our summer plans will unfold, nor about what the High Holidays will look like this year, nor about when in-person Shabbat services and B'nai Mitzvah celebrations will resume. (We do know, of course, that in our cooperative structure, we will continue to be guided by input from our partners, as well as government guidelines and public health and safety experts, and that we will err on the side of caution, valuing human life as we do!) This week, I'm imagining myself bottling some of the Hod of Omer week 5 -- the submission, humility and acceptance that have brought me peace recently -- so that hopefully we can draw on these reserves again as we move forward.
I'm grateful to be on this journey together... and wish you peace, beauty and contentment on this 35th day of the Omer,
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
I don't know about you, but I've been feeling rather exhausted these days. I am a long-time coffee drinker, but had worked hard to cut back my intake to just one cup a day this summer. Now, however, as the mornings grow darker and the days are colder and shorter, I'm finding myself craving that second cup again and the caffeine jolt it might bring.
This Shabbat, Jewish communities around the world will read Parashat Noach. Although children's books and songs tend to focus on cute pairs of animals on the ark and the beautiful rainbow at the end, the tale this Torah portion tells is actually a very dark one. Parashat Noach is really the story of the complete failure of God's first creation attempt, which results in far-reaching destruction and devastation, followed by an only partially-successful attempt at a do-over.
The theme of the week is water. I'm sitting in front of my window, watching the rain fall, as I type. This week, the Jewish calendar is marking both endings and beginnings. On Shemini Atzeret (which was Tuesday), Jewish communities around the world recited the Geshem prayer, for rain, as this holiday marks not only the end of the fall chagim, but also the start of the rainy season in the land of Israel. It is from Shemini Atzeret until Pesach (still half a year away) that we insert into every Amidah we recite a special line: "mashiv ha-ruach u'morid ha-gashem," "You cause the winds to return and the rain to fall."