Pivoting from Loss to Love

This week is a pivot point on the Jewish calendar. Over the last three weeks, we've been descending more and more into the modes of mourning and loss, which will culminate tonight with our observance of the holiday of Tisha B'Av. As I've noted in recent weeks, I believe there's something very healthy about the idea that Jewish tradition provides us with a framework and an outlet for managing difficult emotions like sadness, anger and grief. This year, I know I am thinking simultaneously about the immeasurable losses associated with the destruction of the Temple in ancient times, and also the losses we are experiencing in this year due to the layered crises of the Covid pandemic, the economic fallout from it, threats to our American democracy, and the continued scourge of systemic racism in our society.

This week is a pivot point on the Jewish calendar. Over the last three weeks, we've been descending more and more into the modes of mourning and loss, which will culminate tonight with our observance of the holiday of Tisha B'Av. As I've noted in recent weeks, I believe there's something very healthy about the idea that Jewish tradition provides us with a framework and an outlet for managing difficult emotions like sadness, anger and grief. This year, I know I am thinking simultaneously about the immeasurable losses associated with the destruction of the Temple in ancient times, and also the losses we are experiencing in this year due to the layered crises of the Covid pandemic, the economic fallout from it, threats to our American democracy, and the continued scourge of systemic racism in our society. I hope many of you are able to join us for our ritual observance this evening, and/or to find another way to mark this important day on the Jewish calendar. For those who are interested, Mechon Hadar is offering a full day of programming tomorrow (including a short class taught by Rabbi Joel Goldstein, a Kavana alumnus, from 6:30-6:50 EDT/3:30-3:50 PDT) -- click here to register for any of those offerings -- and of course anyone is welcome to join me in observing Tisha B'Av as a fast day (from tonight until tomorrow night).

As the week continues and we move past Tisha B'Av, we will begin to focus on the themes of comfort, repair, and love. Interestingly, Jewish tradition doesn't waste much time blaming our external enemies, the Babylonians or the Romans, for having destroyed our Temple. Instead, the Talmud tries to make sense of our loss, classically pinning the responsibility for the destruction squarely on our own shoulders, pointing to the animosity between members of our own community (click here to see a great BimBam animated video of the Talmudic tale of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza). The antidote to this kind of internal in-fighting is, of course, building bridges, fostering relationships and making connections.

Last Friday night at the Virtual Candle-Lighting, I offered the community an assignment for the week of Tisha B'Av: to reach out to someone who isn't expecting to hear from you and forge a new or deeper connection. During this period of relative isolation, it's more important than ever to be here for each other. And if this wasn't enough, now I'll tie it to yet another Jewish holiday: Tu B'Av -- a day of love (celebrated in Israel today as some approximation of a Jewish Valentines' Day) -- which falls next Tuesday evening and Wednesday. No need to wait until then... please take up the cause, using this week to write a card to someone you've fallen out of touch with, to drop a note by a neighbor's house, etc. Sowing seeds of love can only feel good and have positive ripple effects in the world.

Lastly, this feels like an opportune moment to mention that at Kavana, we've had some beautiful examples of pandemic friendships: peer relationships, mentoring relationships, and more. I just love the photo below -- of two of our students, Alice B. and Talia G., practicing responsible social distancing while connecting to talk about their upcoming bat mitzvah ceremonies. To me, this image says so much about our human ability to overcome obstacles in building meaningful relationships; it also is a great illustration of the ways that the next generation eternally represents hope and promise!

Wishing you a week of increasing joy and love, as we continue to ride this emotional roller coaster together,

Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum