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
This week, we begin reading a new book: Exodus / Shemot. The first chapter of Exodus is a veritable character study of Pharaoh. We meet Pharaoh in verse 8 and learn that he "knew not Joseph"... in other words, he is different than the pharaohs who have come before him. In verses 9 and 10, we hear Pharaoh's ego and fear come through from behind the text, and we witness how he manipulates through words as he tries to convince his people that the Israelites are a threat. We see how his Egyptian "base" takes up his cause in verses 13 and 14, transforming into oppressors themselves, and ruthlessly imposing upon the Israelites various labors and embittering their lives. And finally, we see Pharaoh's violent tendencies escalate -- from a place of fear yet again -- as he commands first that all baby boys be killed in private as soon as they are born (verse 15), and then, when that plan fails, that his people murder Israelite babies by drowning them publicly in the Nile River (verse 22).
As 2020 draws to a close, I’m sure many of us have been reflecting on some variant of the question: what will we carry forward with us from this year?
Last month, for my birthday, my husband bought me a new cell phone. It's a big step up for the one I've been using for many years, which didn't hold a charge well and had cracks in the screen patched with scotch tape. This new phone is fast and bright, but the most amazing feature to me is its facial recognition ability -- that is, it unlocks automatically when I'm looking directly into it and it can "see" my face.