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)
The Torah is usually terse and concise, but this week's parasha, Chayei Sarah, centers around a long story that is anything but! All 67 verses of Genesis chapter 24 are devoted to a single narrative: the tale of Abraham sending his servant on a journey to find a wife for his son Isaac, and returning with Rebecca, a woman of great agency, strength and generosity.
We Jews know how to wait. That is, we deeply understand humanity's imperfections, and that the presence of injustice or cruelty in our world cannot undermine our steadfast focus on trying to achieve our vision of a more perfect, more just future. We have lots of historical experience to draw on, and much language for this kind of spiritual resilience. One line that's been swimming through my head this week is from the prayer "Ani Maamin": "v'af al pi she-yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo." Translating loosely here (and transposing what we're waiting for from a messianic figure to a time characterized by messianic ideals), this means: despite the fact that it's taking a long time for the world to change in the ways we believe it should, still, we are undeterred; we will wait - and work - until we arrive at an era of peace and justice.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the violent attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Its memory casts a long shadow for me, and this year, the anniversary feels like a powerful reminder of the very high stakes of next week’s election.