Close your eyes and imagine: a hot bowl of soup simmering on the stove, crisp latkes frying in a pan, or a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. Can you almost smell it?! As the weather gets colder and the days darker, it's human nature to turn to "comfort foods" for warmth, satisfaction, nourishment and, well, comfort.
Close your eyes and imagine: a hot bowl of soup simmering on the stove, crisp latkes frying in a pan, or a steaming cup of tea or hot chocolate. Can you almost smell it?! As the weather gets colder and the days darker, it's human nature to turn to "comfort foods" for warmth, satisfaction, nourishment and, well, comfort. In our Jewish tradition, food features prominently... from Torah stories (did you know?: in this week's parasha, Jacob's sons sit down to break bread together before selling their brother Joseph into slavery!), to the range of Jewish culinary traditions from around the world, to brachot, the expressions of gratitude for food that can be recited both before and after we eat.
This week has been a big food week at Kavana!! On Saturday following our monthly Shabbat Minyan, multiple community members contributed to a communal kiddush meal. On Sunday, a team of Kavana volunteers led by Julie Burg joined together with other volunteers at Jewish Family Service to pack Chanukah baskets for delivery to JFS clients. It's fun to imagine how the items in the bags - together with the love with which they were delivered - will come together to ensure that someone in our broader community will feel nurtured and supported, both physically and emotionally, this Chanukah! On Sunday evening, Kavana teens in our High school program gathered, with Rabbi Josh Weisman and Kavana "star baker" Atar Baer, to make latkes and sufganiyot and exchange small gifts. (In this case, I don't have to imagine the smell... I can literally still feel the frying oil in the air here at Kavana headquarters!) Lastly, a couple nights ago, Eric LeVine hosted a revival of a Men's Cooking event from Kavana's early days, and the wonderful group gathered in his kitchen prepared and shared a robust "steak and potatoes" meal while building a sense of community.
At Kavana, clearly, we love food (and community)! But, taking things a step further, it is also true that Kavana itself serves as "comfort food" in our lives. For many of us, in a variety of different ways, Kavana is our "chicken soup for the soul"... grounding us in tradition, nurturing us with a sense of connectedness, and providing the nourishment and comfort we need to survive and thrive when it's cold outside!
Thanks for all that you do to feed and sustain Kavana, which in turn feeds and sustains all of us. And meanwhile, we wish you a nourishing, tasty and meaningful Chanukah season.
In weeks like this one, with the climate crisis and political crises in full view, I struggle with the question of agency. Do I have any power at all to effect change? If I cannot control the "big" things that are happening in real time all around me, do my actions matter? It's easy to become dispirited and believe that we don't have much power.
A few weeks ago, Noam and I decided to introduce our kids to the movie Fiddler on the Roof. They were excited to sing along to some already-familiar songs like "Matchmaker" and "Tradition," and thought the wedding scene was beautiful. However, I had forgotten just how dark the end of the movie is. As we watched the Jews being expelled from their village of Anatevka, trudging down the road together, and pausing at the crossroads before going their own separate ways, my 10-year-old asked whether something like that could ever happen to us here in America.
There's a famous Yiddish saying "shver tsu zayn a yid" -- "it's hard to be a Jew." It's hard to be a Jew*, in these times once again. (*And, of course, only we should get to define what it means to us to be Jewish.) But, it's also wonderful to be a Jew... we are fortunate to have a rich and resilient tradition to draw on, and to have each other as sources of support.