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)
In weeks like this one, with the climate crisis and political crises in full view, I struggle with the question of agency. Do I have any power at all to effect change? If I cannot control the "big" things that are happening in real time all around me, do my actions matter? It's easy to become dispirited and believe that we don't have much power.
A few weeks ago, Noam and I decided to introduce our kids to the movie Fiddler on the Roof. They were excited to sing along to some already-familiar songs like "Matchmaker" and "Tradition," and thought the wedding scene was beautiful. However, I had forgotten just how dark the end of the movie is. As we watched the Jews being expelled from their village of Anatevka, trudging down the road together, and pausing at the crossroads before going their own separate ways, my 10-year-old asked whether something like that could ever happen to us here in America.
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.