This week we marked the one year anniversary since the 2016 election. Over the past year, so many of us have experienced feelings of disappointment, anger, grief, and (at times) despair, as our core beliefs -- values like justice, equality, human dignity, compassion, and love -- have been attacked from every angle. This week's election provided a glimmer of hope.
My word of the week is HOPE -- TIKVAH in Hebrew.
This week's parasha (Chayei Sarah) opens with Abraham mourning the loss of his beloved wife Sarah, grieving and crying over her. And then, after seeing to her burial, he turns his attention to the task of finding a wife for his son Isaac and ensuring a future for his covenanted family.
Our tradition shows us this pattern in countless ways. In the words of the Psalmist, we read "ba-erev yalin bechi, v'la-boker rina" -- "In the evening one may lie down weeping, but joy comes in the morning" (Ps. 30:6). As human beings and as Jews, we are hard-wired for resilience.
This week we marked the one year anniversary since the 2016 election. Over the past year, so many of us have experienced feelings of disappointment, anger, grief, and (at times) despair, as our core beliefs -- values like justice, equality, human dignity, compassion, and love -- have been attacked from every angle. This week's election provided a glimmer of hope. The results of an "off-year" election cannot undo the past (we still have our work quite cut out for us, if we are to ground our society in our positive values!). However, the fact that so many Americans across the country rejected racist, sexist, xenophobic and/or homophobic platforms, provides us with some hope that perhaps our values are shared by enough in our American society to turn the tide.
The Kavana community is far from alone in applying our spiritual lens to American society in this moment, or believing that our religious values can and should inform our engagement in the world. This week, I'm happy to be able to share this piece, assembled by Auburn Seminary, entitled "Surprising Surge of Hope," in which 12 religious leaders (from various faith traditions) answer the question of what has given them hope over the past year.
What gives you hope in this moment? For me, the photos below -- snapshots into recent weeks in the life of Kavana (specifically, the Green Team's environmental clean-up and kids learning about Abraham at Moadon Yeladim) -- fill me with hope.
This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks.
In this quiet pause, it's awesome to be able to reflect on the theme of this week's holiday. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated widely in Israel, of course, but it does have a Hebrew name: Chag ha-Hodaya, literally, the Holiday of Gratitude (or thanks or acknowledgement). You might recognize the root word from so many of our Jewish prayers... it's conjugated into forms like "modeh ani" ("I give thanks") or "modim anachnu lach" ("We give thanks to You") or, perhaps most famous of all -- a line repeated during the Hallel service or at a bris -- "hoduladonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo" ("Give thanks to Adonai who is good, for God's lovingkindness endures forever.")
Last night, I went to bed with the mixed election results fresh in my mind. This morning, I woke up thinking about a powerful image that appears at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Toledot. In last week's reading, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a wife for Isaac, and he had selected Rebecca based on her incredible generosity and compassion (as our Moadon students have learned, she offered water not only to him but also to his camels!). This week, we meet Rebecca again, now pregnant and uncomfortable. She seeks divine intervention, and is told that two nations are struggling in her womb. In the pshat (the simple, plain meaning), this means that she is pregnant with a set of twins. On the level of drash (deeper interpretation), these twins, Jacob and Esau, represent two very different modalities of being, and it is these that are struggling within her.