Dear Kol Tzedek Community,
Today on an early morning commute on my bike, I rode past a giant old church at 43rd and Chestnut that is actively being demolished. It was quite a sight to see - mounds of rubble that once held such sacred structure; mangled wires and exposed rusted iron beams. Putting aside the inanimate truth of this old building for a moment, it looked painful. I winced. And I took refuge, for a moment, in the fact that it takes so much effort to destroy something. Tearing down old structures that are no longer serving us is gnarly and time consuming.
On the heels of the heart-opening community infusion of Yom Kippur, this week has been a deep dive into the painful ever-present reality of patriarchy and the extraordinary courage and effort it is taking to dismantle its foundation.
The Ford-Kavanaugh hearings were excruciating and nauseating and infuriating and awful. I am seeing and hearing online the pain they are causing so many of us, the reopened wounds, the anger and hurt. I see your courage to write your own testimony and tell your stories of truth and assault. If you're needing to talk about any of this, I'm available, and/or can help connect you with others who can help listen and support. Please contact me privately. Your story matters, your experience matters, your pain matters, you matter.
Throughout the past year I have been searching far and wide for Torah that would speak to this moment, the Torah of #metoo if you will. The Torah has within it horrific stories of rape and assault. And the rabbis work hard to name it, redeem it, and transform it. But none do it justice for our times.
Falling asleep last night, I was thinking about how on Sunday we will unroll the whole of Torah and peer into its crevices. I recalled my favorite teaching that each morning the Holy One looks into the Torah and creates the world anew. And I realized that this will be the year that we write the Torah that will redeem the suffering of Dinah and Anita and Christine and ourselves.
To get our midrashic imaginations started, I offer you an excerpt of this poetic rendering of the V'ahavta, written by Aurora Levins Morales:
"When you inhale and when you exhale
breathe the possibility of another world
into the 37.2 trillion cells of your body
until it shines with hope.
Then imagine more.
Imagine rape is unimaginable. Imagine war is a scarcely credible rumor
That the crimes of our age, the grotesque inhumanities of greed,
the sheer and astounding shamelessness of it, the vast fortunes
made by stealing lives, the horrible normalcy it came to have,
is unimaginable to our heirs, the generations of the free.
Don't waver. Don't let despair sink its sharp teeth
Into the throat with which you sing. Escalate your dreams.
Make them burn so fiercely that you can follow them down
any dark alleyway of history and not lose your way.
Make them burn clear as a starry drinking gourd
Over the grim fog of exhaustion, and keep walking.
Hold hands. Share water. Keep imagining.
So that we, and the children of our children's children
Ufros aleinu sukkat Shlomekha
ופרש עלינו סכת שלומך
On this shabbat of Sukkot, may the Holy One spread over every single one of us a canopy of wholeness and peace and safety.
Rabbi Ari Lev
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek Synagogue through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.