Many truths have emerged this week. Painfully high on the list is the reality that we live in a deeply divided country, as we watch the vote roll in county by county, city by countryside. The battle for the soul of this nation has revealed that there is no unifying understanding of freedom, democracy, or justice. Perhaps the unifying force this week is that we have all been waiting, anxiously, (im)patiently. And the whole world has been watching and waiting with us.
This week has been marked by a profound sense of anticipation followed by a need for real patience as we wait for every vote to be counted. I must admit, I have refreshed the news more times than ever before in my life. I have at moments felt like a dog chasing its tail. I have also felt a kind of unexpected hopefulness; knowing that our waiting would show that years of organizing, movement building, and voter enfranchisement would reveal a new horizon.
But waiting does not come naturally or comfortably. And most often we look for a way out. Over and over again this week I have turned to these words:
כִּי לִישׁוּעָתְ֒ךָ קִוִּֽינוּ כָּל הַיּוֹם:
For your help/salvation, I wait all day long!
The line comes from the 15th blessing of the weekday Amidah, in which we beseech God to bring about the sprouting of salvation. I have taken refuge in its imagery and the long view of time it offers. The blessing begins with grassroots language, literally expressing a desire for redemption to sprout up like a shoot from the earth. It is an image of what is possible linked to a deep longing for it to come true.
Much of Jewish liturgy is actually born of longing and waiting and hoping. In fact, the word in this prayer, kivinu, from the root קוי, means all of that - to hope, to long, to wait. Waiting, says this prayer, is fertile ground.
At its core the Amidah reaches for a vision for a world that is entirely whole and just. A vision bigger than any election or even any lifetime. It connects us to the long view of history which points us toward the world to come. We name our hope for it every time we pray. And we cultivate a taste of it every shabbat.
The poet David Whyte writes,
"Longing has its own secret, future destination, and its own seasonal emergence from within, a ripening from the core, a seed growing in our own bodies; it is as if we are put into relationship with an enormous distance inside us leading us back to some unknown origin with its own secret timing indifferent to our wills, and gifted at the same time with an intimate sense of proximity, to a lover, to a future, to a transformation, to a life we want for ourselves, and to the beauty of the sky and the ground that surrounds us" (Condolences, 137).
We arrive at this Shabbat with a more intimate sense of proximity to the life we want for ourselves; the adrenaline of waiting pulsing through our blood and a long-awaited hopefulness in our hearts. I invite you to take a deeper breath. To allow the exhale to slowly bring you to a halt. And to never stop hoping for what's possible and necessary.
I gift you this song, recorded by my beloved colleague Rabbi David Fainsilber. May it guide your heart to keep waiting and longing and dreaming of a world that is whole as our ancestors have done for millennia.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.