There are happy times in the Jewish calendar, and there are sad times; fortunately the happy outnumber the sad by a big margin.
There are happy times in the Jewish calendar, and there are sad times; fortunately the happy outnumber the sad by a big margin. This week, however, is one of those sad times. We’re in the nine-day period leading up to Tisha B’Av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, which commemorates the sacking of Jerusalem – when the Temple was destroyed and our people became refugees – and other historic calamities. These days are a time to remember when everything fell apart, to reflect on the fragility of the world we live in, and in doing so, to achieve some healing and perhaps learn from the past. We’ll gather as a community this Saturday night and Sunday to do some of that work together.
This year, the history that is being written right now echoes our moment in the Jewish calendar too closely. This weekend’s terrible massacres in El Paso and Dayton – one of them motivated by white supremacist hatred – are a further blow to the vision we hold for our country; they can feel like more evidence that, once again, things are falling apart. Locally, we recently observed the anniversary of the tragic shooting at the Jewish Federation 13 years ago. We had hoped to see the end of gun violence by now. And the shooting in El Paso is not isolated – it is a particularly violent manifestation of a hatred of immigrants that is being fostered and enacted at the highest levels of our government.
At times like this, we lean on the resources of our tradition – including this time leading up to Tisha B’Av, followed by the season leading up to the High Holidays, the season ofteshuvah (return to the right path) – for support, meaning, and guidance. We gather to mourn and make meaning together, we gather to move towards healing and justice. This summer has been and continues to be full of opportunities to do all of these things with Kavana. All are welcome to join us this Saturday night for a Tisha B’Av discussion and reading ofEichah, Lamentations, and/or Sunday for a Jewish community Tisha B’Av vigil outside ICE’s offices in Downtown Seattle.
L’shalom / towards peace,
Rabbi Josh Weisman and the Kavana Team
PS Eichah, Lamentations, the book we read on Tisha B’Av that describes our people’s first experience of becoming refugees, is full of evocative imagery that could just as well describe the plight of today’s refugees at our Southern border, or grieving families in El Paso and Dayton. At the very end, however, we purposefully repeat the book’s most hopeful line, refusing to end on a bitter note. So may we refuse to let today’s tragedies be the end of the story…
“Crying, she will cry in the night, her tear upon her cheek. There is none for her, no comforter.” (Lamentations 1:2)
“Turn us, Adonai, toward you, and we will turn. Make our days new again, like dawn / long ago.” (Lamentations 5:21)
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum's Rosh Hashanah Sermon, entitled "Let Oneness Reign: A Sermon on Interconnectedness" is available to listen to or read.
This week, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Labor Day weekend is now in the rearview mirror! Time has moved very strangely for me during this pandemic period, but still, it has continued ticking forward, and we now find ourselves less than two weeks out from Rosh Hashanah. We prepare ourselves to conclude one cycle and to begin a new one, uncertain about what the new year will bring, but also with a sense of hope.
This week, Parashat Ki Tavo opens with a famous sequence. The Israelites are told that when they will enter into the land, possess it and settle in it, they shall gather the first fruits of the soil, put them in a basket, bring them to a priest, and make two declarations. The first declaration is an acknowledgement that this is the land that God promised to their ancestors. The second, longer declaration is an abridged telling of all of Israelite history in a few verses, beginning with the words "Arami oved avi...":