I've just returned to Seattle from a wonderful and very intense summer, most of which I spent learning and teaching in Jerusalem. In the middle of my time in Israel, I had an opportunity to spend four days traveling around the West Bank, together with a group of other American Jewish leaders through the Encounter program.
I've just returned to Seattle from a wonderful and very intense summer, most of which I spent learning and teaching in Jerusalem. In the middle of my time in Israel, I had an opportunity to spend four days traveling around the West Bank, together with a group of other American Jewish leaders through the Encounter program. Meeting with Palestinians and hearing their personal stories was moving and at times distressing; returning to Israeli society after my time on the other side of the wall and experiencing the (growing) gulf between Israeli and Palestinian public opinion was even more challenging. There were uplifting and hopeful moments, to be sure, but I'm still struggling to wrap my head around the despair I experienced this summer.
Fortunately, the Jewish calendar provides us with an outlet for despair -- and for the deepest levels of mourning, sadness, grief, and anguish that we can muster. This single day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B'Av, commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (twice) and numerous other calamities that have happened throughout Jewish history. From Saturday evening throughSunday evening of this weekend, Jews around the world will observe a day of fasting and mourning, in solidarity with one another and with our ancestors from across the generations who have experienced tragedy.
It's important that as a community, we can come together not only at times of joy, but also in times of sadness. Sharing our collective heartbreak on Tisha B'Av enables us to find comfort in one another.
With prayers for a future in which (in the words of Psalm 126) those who have sown in tears will indeed reap in joy,
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
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.