Dear Kol Tzedek Community,
If we were in a game of family feud and you asked me what 100 people thought "Judaism did best", I would quickly hit my buzzer and answer "death." I have always thought that Judaism was so good at personal and communal mourning; at making space to grieve, to heal and to transform. I thought a lot about this during my recent meditation retreat. I spent many hours working with pain and tension in my shoulders, and realizing that my capacity to feel this pain (and by extension pain, loss and discomfort in general) is directly proportional to my capacity to feel joy.
And Hanukkah is ultimately a festival about joy. So much so, that we are instructed to recite the psalms of Hallel each and every day. We greet each other with "Hag Urim Sameach" - May you have a Joyous Festival of Light! We get to celebrate Rosh Hodesh (the new moon) and Shabbat right along side Hanukkah. And this year we get to add the celebratory joy (and lets be honest, some angst) of New Years Eve.
Coming off of this retreat and this week of Hanukkah, my insight deepened. It is because Judaism is so good at holding hard emotions, at ritualizing and supporting us through difficult times, that Judaism is also able to carve out space for simcha, for sacred joy. It is because we were able to gather and grieve the night after the election that we are also able to draw strength and resilience on the 1st night of Hanukkah/Christmas Eve. It is because we heard each other's stories of loss on Yom Kippur, that we can whole-heartedly dance the hora at baby namings and bar mitzvahs.
Thank you for teaching me this. I am so grateful to be part of the Kol Tzedek community for living so fully into this truth. Together we allow each other to present to life and to each other.
Just before lighting the last night of candles, I made a donation to Kol Tzedek and asked my friends and family to do the same. Thank you to everyone who has given time, money and love.
May we all be blessed with a year of feeling more alive, waking up to connection, community, resilience, and hopefully a lot of joy!
Happy Hanukkah, Shavua Tov and Happy New Year!
Rabbi Ari Lev