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.
The Torah is usually terse and concise, but this week's parasha, Chayei Sarah, centers around a long story that is anything but! All 67 verses of Genesis chapter 24 are devoted to a single narrative: the tale of Abraham sending his servant on a journey to find a wife for his son Isaac, and returning with Rebecca, a woman of great agency, strength and generosity.
We Jews know how to wait. That is, we deeply understand humanity's imperfections, and that the presence of injustice or cruelty in our world cannot undermine our steadfast focus on trying to achieve our vision of a more perfect, more just future. We have lots of historical experience to draw on, and much language for this kind of spiritual resilience. One line that's been swimming through my head this week is from the prayer "Ani Maamin": "v'af al pi she-yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo." Translating loosely here (and transposing what we're waiting for from a messianic figure to a time characterized by messianic ideals), this means: despite the fact that it's taking a long time for the world to change in the ways we believe it should, still, we are undeterred; we will wait - and work - until we arrive at an era of peace and justice.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the violent attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Its memory casts a long shadow for me, and this year, the anniversary feels like a powerful reminder of the very high stakes of next week’s election.