Who By Fire and Who By Water

as we prepare for the High Holy Days, this prayer from last year is still, sadly, relevant

In the morning it is written and in the evening it is sealed: 

  • Who shall die jogging 
  • Who shall die relaxing in their home
  • Who shall die seeking help after a car crash 
  • Who shall die holding a cellphone
  • Who shall die decorating for a party
  • Who shall die leaving a party 

We say their names: Ahmaud Arbery, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Jonathan Ferrell, Renisha McBride, Stephon Clark, Claude Reese, Jordan Edwards, Sean Bell.

In the morning it is written and in the evening it is sealed

  •  Who shall die enjoying music 
  • Who shall die selling music 
  • Who shall die sleeping 
  • Who shall die studying the Bible 
  • Who shall die for a traffic violation 
  • Who shall die coming from the store 

We say their names: Jordan Davis, Alton Sterling, Aiyana Jones, Breonna Taylor, the Charleston Nine, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Trayvon Martin.

In the morning it is written and in the evening it is sealed: 

  • Who shall die playing cops and robbers
  • Who shall die lawfully carrying a weapon
  • Who shall die on the shoulder of the road with car problems 
  • Who shall die in the first hours of the new year 
  • Who shall die shopping at Walmart 
  • Who shall die cashing a check 

We say their names: Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Corey Jones, Terence Crutcher, Oscar Grant, John Crawford, Yvonne Smallwood

In the morning it is written and in the evening it is sealed: 

  • Who shall die reading a book in their own car 
  • Who shall die taking a walk with their stepfather 
  • Who shall die reaching for their wallet 
  • Who shall die running away 
  • Who shall die asking a cop a question 
  • Who shall die begging just to breathe 

We say their names: Keith Scott, Clifford Glover, Amadou Diallo, Walter Scott, Randy Evans, Eric Garner, George Floyd.

Shabbat Ki Tavo: You’ll Know Home When You Get There

Wherever I go I am going toward Jerusalem – Rabbi Nakhman of Bratslav, who never saw Israel

The spiritual path of the Jews – and those who love them and travel with them – can be seen as a path of homelessness. From the days of the ivri, the one who crossed over the river from the land between the Tigris and Euphrates, the Hebrews – ivri’im – were and are those who came from elsewhere. The Torah is the story of an ancient wandering, minimized only by the ensuing Jewish Exile of two millennia. 

We are a people who derives our spiritual meaning from the longing for home that only the homeless wanderer feels. For this reason our Torah bids us consider the situation and even the feelings of the stranger, the wanderer among us, an obligation repeated no less than 36 times. 

In our parashat hashavua, the Torah reading for this week, we see words we have dreamed of: “When you come home”:

וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־תָב֣וֹא אֶל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָ֑ה וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֥בְתָּ בָּֽהּ

There will be a time when you will come into the land that is there place of your nakhalah, and your soul knows it is home, and you settle down in it and are at home there (Devarim 26.1)

The question we are left with is this: what is that nakhalah, the place your soul knows is home? 

What is a nakhalah? The word is often translated as “inheritance,” but in Hebrew usage it’s more complicated than that. For example, an old Jewish saying is אין אדם נוחל עולם הבא אלא מתוך חיי צער – “one earns one’s nakhalah, one’s place in the world, only through the suffering of experience.” Why should you have to earn what you are to inherit?

This week’s parashah indicates that until you can reap sustenance from a place or a situation and share it, it is not – yet – your home, even though it may be yours in name or title. Until you are able to share sustenance, you are not sated; unless you are able to share shelter, you are not safe. 

The opposite may very well also be true: that place in which we are safe in shared community is home, even if it is on the wanderer’s path. Rabbi Nakhman of Bratslav never made it to Jerusalem in his lifetime, though he longed to go there; finally he learned, and was able to teach, that being a wanderer seeking Jerusalem was in itself a sort of homecoming.

Where is home, and how shall one know it? Those who know that wandering is a necessary condition for spiritual exploration resonate with these lines of T. S. Eliot’s:

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started 

And know the place for the first time. 

On this Shabbat may you, wanderer, find consolation in the path of your footsteps, and come to know the you are always headed home despite – because of – your wandering.

Shabbat Ki Tetze: The Truth of a Bird’s Nest

We are not individuals, no more than birds are. We and they are individuated out of an endless sky of possibility and longing. And on a dark night we need each other to huddle against the cold.

In this week’s parashah we see one of the most famous passages in all of Torah: the case of the mother bird:

כִּ֣י יִקָּרֵ֣א *קַן־צִפּ֣וֹר ׀ לְפָנֶ֡יךָ בַּדֶּ֜רֶךְ בְּכׇל־עֵ֣ץ ׀ א֣וֹ עַל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֶפְרֹחִים֙ א֣וֹ בֵיצִ֔ים וְהָאֵ֤ם רֹבֶ֙צֶת֙ עַל־הָֽאֶפְרֹחִ֔ים א֖וֹ עַל־הַבֵּיצִ֑ים לֹא־תִקַּ֥ח הָאֵ֖ם עַל־הַבָּנִֽים׃

If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young.

שַׁלֵּ֤חַ תְּשַׁלַּח֙ אֶת־הָאֵ֔ם וְאֶת־הַבָּנִ֖ים תִּֽקַּֽח־לָ֑ךְ לְמַ֙עַן֙ יִ֣יטַב לָ֔ךְ וְהַאֲרַכְתָּ֖ יָמִֽים׃         

Let the mother go, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life. (Devarim 22.6-7)

One of the reasons that this text is so well-known is that it seems to promise a reward for the doing of a mitzvah. We are promised here, in so many words, that if you leave a mother bird alone when you are collecting its eggs, you will have a good and a long life. Very few mitzvot come with a stated reward; we are to do the mitzvot because we are part of of the committed, covenanted mitzvah community.

This is a dangerous passage, the kind that seems easy to find fault with; and that is just what happens in a well-known Talmudic story. A group of rabbis is sitting on a hill talking Torah when they see a father and son carefully shooing a mother bird away from a nest. The boy has climbed up and carefully hands down the eggs, but in his descent he slips, falls, and is killed. Of the group sitting in shock at this horror, two stand out: Rabbi Akiva, who explains that the “long life” really means the life of the world to come, and Rabbi Elisha ben Abuya, who cannot stand the contradiction, and leaves Judaism.

Two thousand years later we are still finding fault with passages that seem to us to be easily picked apart. Here is one that some congregations removed from the daily prayers because it seemed so primitive:

If you listen and submit to the obligation to love life and respect it, to serve it rather than expecting it to serve you, then the rain will fall in its season, both early and late as you need it to; you will harvest all you need to live and thrive. There will be enough for you and for all the animals, and all will be satisfied. But be careful lest you begin to worship yourself, believing that you are in control of your life and can bend Life to your will, because then the skies will be shut up, and no rain will fall, and the land will not yield sustenance, and you will perish. (Deut 11.13-17)

Both Akiva and Elisha were wrong in their day, and the early modern Jews who sought so eagerly to leave irrational aspects of religion behind were just as short-sighted. The truth is that the Torah is speaking of the collective long vision, and over time, and speaking collectively, its words are true. And we’ve come to understand how true in our own day. It’s not about life treating an individual fairly; it’s about how we’re all in this together.

This 3rd week of Elul is dedicated to the climate emergency

If you do not obey, the rain will not fall and the crops will not grow

 Sunrise Movement – the Climate Revolution

We all have something to lose to climate change, and something to gain in coming together. The Sunrise Movement seeks to stop climate change and create millions of good-paying jobs in the process. We grow our power through talking to our communities. We are people from all paths of life. We are nonviolent in word and deed.

Shabbat Shoftim: Justice One Step at a Time

Everything we see, whether good or bad, is really a reflection of ourselves. If it was not, we’d simply not see it. – Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hasidism 

This Shabbat is called Shoftim, after the first part of the parashah, which deals with the need for a way to compel cooperation with social mores. Without the ability to compel, justice will not prevail over evil, and so Moshe is told to instruct the Israelites:

שֹׁפְטִ֣ים וְשֹֽׁטְרִ֗ים תִּֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ בְּכׇל־שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ לִשְׁבָטֶ֑יךָ וְשָׁפְט֥וּ אֶת־הָעָ֖ם מִשְׁפַּט־צֶֽדֶק׃

You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.

What was true then is still true now; justice is not possible without a mechanism for providing that a just judgement is carried out. In a perfect world, all judgments would be just, and those who enforce them would do so faithfully. 

The society we live in is not so fortunate – perhaps no human society has ever been. But for Jews, who respond to ethical wreckage with renewed determination to lift up the human condition, despair is forbidden. Instead we focus:

Once upon a time a well-meaning human decided to change the world.

Setting out on that errand, 

they quickly saw that the task was huge.

They decided to settle for changing their nation, 

but realized again that the goal was too lofty.

Perhaps the state? They wondered, but again felt overwhelmed.

Maybe the city? Hmmm.

Okay, I’ll start with my neighbors….

Finally, the realization hit:

The place to start is with oneself.

“To start with oneself,” the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber wrote, “but not to end with oneself.” Buber was highly influenced by Hasidic teachings which encourage us to look inward to find the echo of what upsets us when we look outward. As the Baal Shem Tov taught, it’s the way of the Universe to bring us the lessons we each need to learn. 

Justice is not a monolithic vista, but an exercise in personal need and proclivity. If you find yourself confronting something that makes you say “how awful,” this is a sign that you are detecting the path to justice that is yours to tread. Some of us become cynical because we cannot see the holiness in those around us, yet it is there. Look for the goodness, even in all the injustice. You will find it, and it will give you strength to continue to work for justice in the way that is your path.

In Elul, the month of preparing to look at ourselves honestly in the mirror on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are offered many opportunities to consider our path. Here are a few for you to choose from: what compels your sense of justice? Do it.

Shabbat Shalom




Shabbat Nakhamu: The Courage to be Consoled

נַחֲמ֥וּ נַחֲמ֖וּ עַמִּ֑י יֹאמַ֖ר אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם

Nakhamu, nakhamu ami yomar Eloheykhem

“Be consoled, my people, says your G*d” – Isaiah 40.1

Last Saturday night we commemorated Tisha B’Av, a date on which we remember not only the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple and our two-thousand year homelessness that followed. Jewish tradition also marks the 9th day of Av as a day of memorial for other catastrophes that our people have suffered – Inquisition, pogrom, crusade; the list is nauseating and surreal. By some horror of coincidence, the mass deportations of our cousins and siblings from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka also began on this day.

Now we are on the other side of this terrible remembering, and on this Shabbat Nakhamu we are encouraged as a people to find consolation. The Shabbat itself, on which we read parashat Va’Etkhanan, is known by the first verse of the Haftarah, taken from Isaiah. For the next seven weeks we are to set our faces toward hope, as we as a people follow our tradition’s rise from the nadir of destruction all the way up, up to Rosh HaShanah and a New Year.

We ourselves are caught in a terrible time of fear and uncertainty. Such a rising may seem at best incongruous, and at worst disingenuous. Yet our ancestors understood this emotional rising toward hope as a mitzvah, a sacred obligation. They knew the ancient Jewish teaching that to succumb to despair was the worst kind of idolatry of all, for it was to turn all of one’s belief toward meaninglessness and chaos. The holiness we are to seek for our lives requires us to believe, despite all and because of all, that meaning and purpose are still within our grasp – as is joy.

This isn’t a drill, and no time to take refuge in platitudes. We do not know if “it will all be okay”. The plagues that attended our people’s escape from Egypt loom in sharp relief, up to an including the trauma of the death of innocent loved ones. Now more than ever we might find ourselves amazed to be gifted with a tradition that survived catastrophe and yet could still dance upon the opposite shore. It is now up to us to find a way to join in that defiant embrace of life, despite everything, because of everything. 

“To make injustice the only /
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.” – Jack Gilbert

On the Shabbat morning when news came to us of the terrible massacre of the Jews of Pittsburgh at prayer, we at Shir Tikvah were going ahead with our own prayer gathering.

We found ourselves doing two things: watching the door so as to watch over each other, and at the very same time, singing our Shabbat songs more loudly than ever before. 

Both are possible. Both are necessary. Without the singing, we cannot survive the fear. A wise Jewish tradition echoed in modern psychology is “fake it til you make it.” Begin the dance steps even though you feel sad; reach out to another even though you feel depleted. These are feelings, only feelings, and they are not the whole of you – or of us, you and me and them, together. 

As we open our hearts to hope, may they be filled to overflowing with hope. As we defy hate with love, may we feel love deeply, and may it comfort us.

shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Ariel

the full poem:

A Brief for the Defense
Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bomba

If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.

We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Jack Gilbert

Shabbat Hazon: What We Have Done, and What We Must Learn

It is not up to you to finish the work, but you are not excused from your part in it – Pirke Avot

We begin our immersion into the Book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, this week. The first parashah of this book is always the prescribed learning for the Shabbat immediately preceding Tisha B’Av.

Tisha B’Av, literally “the ninth [day] of [the Jewish month of] Av” is a designation similar to “Nine Eleven” in U.S. history. It is a date that everyone recognizes, and that we are urged to learn from, if we would live and thrive.

Even as Yom Kippur offers us a day to contemplate our personal behavior, Tisha B’Av exists to draw our attention to the behavior of our Jewish community. It is, then, no accident that the Rabbis who fixed the passages of our Torah Study chose the first parashah of Devarim, in the wake of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, to seek meaning for our own community.

In Devarim we find Moshe our leader inviting us to consider the long perspective of the Israelite wandering, from a place without agency to the challenge of free will and responsibility. There is no message more urgent for us right now, in the shadow of Tisha B’Av which begins tomorrow evening at sundown.

Even as our ancestors looked at the devastation around them wreaked by Rome (responding to the Jewish rebellion against that empire) and found inspiration in the sacred text, so we look upon the climate emergency, mass extinctions, and civil rights struggle of our time. The long perspective of Devarim asks us to consider what has come to be called the Anthropocene Epoch, defined as the time period of human impact on the Earth’s ecosystems.

On this Shabbat Jewish tradition mandates: we will not contemplate solutions, and we will not yet entertain the encouragement of hope: that will come, next week. Instead we must make room for the contemplation of despair. Our ancestors learned that it is a dead end to pretend that nothing bad is happening. We must summon the courage to recognize that we have feelings of sadness, anger, and fear, and to understand that these emotions are natural. They must be honored and processed before we can truly move beyond them.

When one sees oneself as an isolated individual, cast in the Western mold of what sociologists call sovereign selfhood, there is no reliable Rock to which to cling when one’s own learning and reasoning processes break down. As the social psychologist Roy Baumeister teaches, the self is not meant to carry its own weight.

The message of personal participation in community behavior and fate is rather, as Jewish theology teaches, that we must see our individual selves as irreducibly communal. We will perish as individuals, or we will survive because we come to see that we are part of all of existence. It gives us our meaning even as we “till it and tend it,” as the first mitzvah of Genesis commands.

Shabbat Matot-Masei: Neither Here Nor There

“Not all who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

We’ve left the place we knew, the good and the bad of it, and now we don’t know where we are. That is as true of us as it was of our ancestors, who, having left Egypt, wandered in a wilderness for an entire generation of uncertainty.

In parashat Matot-Masei, the double parashah for this Shabbat, the Israelites look back and remember where they started:

וַיִּסְע֤וּ מֵֽרַעְמְסֵס֙ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽרִאשׁ֔וֹן בַּחֲמִשָּׁ֥ה עָשָׂ֛ר י֖וֹם לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֑וֹן מִֽמׇּחֳרַ֣ת הַפֶּ֗סַח יָצְא֤וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ בְּיָ֣ד רָמָ֔ה לְעֵינֵ֖י כׇּל־מִצְרָֽיִם׃

They set out from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month. It was on the morrow of the Pesakh offering that the Israelites started out defiantly, in plain view of all the Egyptians. (Numbers 33.3)

Over a year ago, at Purim 5780, we began our COVID-19 journey together, optimistic about our ability to weather the pandemic with Jewish-inflected use of the gifts of common sense, kindness, and Zoom. After all, what choice did we have? Having suffered the myriad plagues of the 45th federal government administration, of which the pandemic was partially one, we knew that a journey through fundamental change had been imposed upon us.

Now, we just want to be there. Yet our tradition teaches that if we do not learn the lessons of the journey, we will not succeed in arriving whole.

We remember: in the incident of the scouts in parashat Shelakh-L’kha, the Israelites tried to overcome their fear of moving forward at the cost of cohesion of their community. We learned that it was not their fear, finally, but their dysfunctional response to it, that sealed their fate as wanderers. All that was left was to study that fate.

When the universe sends you a message, how do you learn to perceive it? The Israelites look back now on their journey, and every stop is recorded in this parashah. Our tradition seeks the meaning of our journey in the journey – every day, every move. There is no boredom of repetitiveness here; each place has its own memories and its own teachings. 

This, perhaps, is the lesson of our wandering as well. We may or may not be close to getting there, wherever “there” is. But we will not arrive whole unless we learn the meaning of these days of uncertainty.

Whole does not mean healed; that may be more than we can hope for. But it does mean that we know who we are, what we mean, and where we stand. As a Jewish people, our route to wholeness is by remembering each step of the way, and learning it.

“Memory produces hope in the same way that amnesia produces despair.” Theologian Walter Brueggeman

my heart is in the east and I am in the uttermost west

Manar Vosgueritchian, founder of the first Waldorf trauma-informed school in Palestine

During dark times, we who are the Jewish community are summoned to kindle light.

In solidarity with all of us who watch the violence exploding in Palestine and Israel, and can do nothing but worry from afar, I offer my thoughts as you consider your own:

My closest family and my closest cousins are fighting again. I feel helpless to stop it. They both are traumatized from too many generations of fear and scarcity. Nothing about the 21st century is going to make this better. I am pro Palestine and pro Israel; I love them all.

I will not take refuge in blanket condemnations nor in vilifying any human being. I will insist on nuance and history even when I am exhausted and tempted to make an exception and declare something completely evil or good.

I believe that every child born should grow up in love, joy, peace and safety. There is no reason I should have to choose between peoples to work for this. Demonizing a person or a people is lazy, does not create meaningful community, and in my spiritual tradition is a sin.

Milad Vosgueritchien of House of Hope

Milad and Manar of El Azarayiah, Fa’iz from the West Bank and Fatma of the Beduin village of the Negev, Na’amah in Netanya and Itay from the kibbutz, Biti the mom in Jerusalem and Eli the business owner in Tel Aviv – I love you. I will continue to work for a world in which you can be safe living together, without the machinations of politicians and the military industrial complex that uses you for its own wealth and power.

People are good at heart; people will choose to live in peace until forced to act otherwise. Is the culprit nationalism, colonialism, climate crisis, mass brainwashing? I don’t know, and it’s likely very complicated. But love is not. I will keep on growing my capacity to love.

I support those who seek to live together in peace as the only way to fight those who seek division and hate to gain power. Don’t just protest. Support organizations that work for peace, mutual dignity and co-existence:  

Roots/Shorashim/Judur  https://www.friendsofroots.net/

@omdimbeyachad https://www.progressiveisrael.org/standing-together-omdim-byachad-against-injustice/

@WomenWagePeace https://womenwagepeace.org.il/en/

@peacenowisrael https://peacenow.org.il/en/about-us/who-are-we

@theIMEU https://imeu.org/

@AdalahEnglish https://www.adalahjusticeproject.org/

@NewIsraelFund https://www.nif.org/our-issues/palestinian-citizens-of-israel/

Just as in efforts to reform policing in Portland, where I live, and elsewhere, protests are part of a larger effort: protests alone only express our outrage. They must be followed up by real efforts to support the positive that we see lacking in the world. Believe in a better world? Help to grow it.

hazak, hazak, v’nit’hazek, let us be strong and strengthen each other,

Rabbi Ariel

Shabbat Pinkhas: The Three Weeks

חָנֵּנִי ה’ כִּי אֻמְלַל אָנִי רְפָאֵנִי ה’ כִּי נִבְהֲלוּ עֲצָמָי וְנַפְשִׁי נִבְהֲלָה מְאֹד ואת ה’ עַד מָתָי

Heal me, for I am very low. I am chaos within. My soul is in very great chaos, and you, HaShem, how long? Takhanun 

Today a man will be buried who died in the heat wave this week. Herb Weinstein ז״ל was a special human being who maintained Jewish community ties across the spectrum, from Shir Tikvah to Chabad. May his memory be a blessing and an inspiration to us all.

When we stand at a graveside or when we remember a loved one, now gone, during Yizkor prayers on the Festivals and Yom Kippur, we often encounter this passage:

There is a time and purpose for every human experience:

A time for being born and a time for dying, 

A time for planting and a time for uprooting the planted

A time for weeping and a time for laughing, 

A time for wailing and a time for dancing;

A time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones, 

A time for embracing and a time for shunning embraces,

A time for loving and a time for hating; 

A time for war and a time for peace.

 (Kohelet 3)

The tragedy of Herb’s death because of a heat wave, along with at least sixty other victims, demands that we consider the place in our lives for anguish, for fear, and for apprehension. These Three Weeks are exactly meant for that purpose. 

The Three Weeks are observed in Jewish practice as a memorial to our ancestors who were massacred in the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. In contemplating the catastrophe the Jewish people found a way to bring meaning to so much otherwise senseless death by asking 

What is the cause of this horror?

What might we have allowed to be done that contributed to it?

What can we do, within our human capacity, to ensure that this never happens again?

This kind of spiritual empowerment allows us not to be enervated by what is otherwise senseless tragedy. As we follow the daily horror of the building collapse in Seaside Florida, the natural response is to find someone to blame. Yet the more powerful and effective response urged upon us during this Three Weeks of contemplation is to allow ourselves the full learning, as we consider the three questions our tradition asks about our own ancient tragedy of Tisha B’Av.

There is a time for dying, yes, but tragic death should bring us to seek out the lesson implied. The ancient wisdom of Kohelet demands that we consider the climate emergency with all the urgency that the young leadership of the Sunrise Movement demand. 

There is a time for weeping over that which is tragically lost.

There is a time for throwing stones, which is to say, to determine what is at fault in our society and to act to change it.

We must give ourselves time to mourn, to feel the natural responses of apprehension and despair. The lesson of the Three Weeks is that we are not helpless: once we have gone through the necessary stages of mourning and of contemplation, there is a time to act upon our learning. There is a time for uprooting that which we have planted, or allowed to be planted. 

May we in our personal spiritual journey, and in that which intersects with our larger circles of belonging, make room for true wailing, so that there may again, HaShem willing, be dancing.

Shabbat Shalom, and may you find consolation along with all those who mourn

Listen to Palestinian Voices

Last week I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion organized by VACA House of Hope in El Aziriyah Palestine. The other panelists included Milad Vosgueritchian, co-founder and director of the trauma-informed kindergarten, and Aziz Abu Sarah, his close friend and leader of Mejdi Tours, as well as a pastor from Eureka CA.

In the wake of the recent murderous hostility between Hamas and Israel, we were all asked the same question. How do we go on, continuing to try to hope, to build for peace, to believe that the work of our hands will be enduring?

If you listen to U.S. voices, you will hear much confusion of anger, pain, frustration, and outrage, in words that are often not accurate, and sometimes more emotional than rational. If you listen to Palestinian voices on the ground in Palestine, you will discover more nuance, more maturity, and more compassionate courage.

Finding Salaam After the Shattering is on YouTube here.

It is a privilege to learn from those who live the reality. They have much to teach us if we will listen to their voices.