Dear Beit Sefer Families,
It has been a couple of months since I’ve seen most of you, and I will be honest, I miss everyone. While I look forward to the quiet of the summer and the chance to catch up with some administrative tasks, to do professional learning, to meet with teachers and madrichim, revise curriculum and plan ahead, there are no students and no parents coming each week to greet. I miss the sense of community, and the opportunity to have conversations with everyone.
This week we commemorated the Jewish Fast Day of Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av literally means the ninth day in the month of Av. According to our tradition this is the day that the first Temple and second Temples were destroyed, and the day that the Jews were expelled from Spain. At Camp Ramah where I spent many many summers growing up, we lit candles, sat on the floor as we prayed and listened to the chanting of Lamentations. This week, I could hear Cantor Paul preparing the chanting. The tune brought back to me a sense of communal mourning, of a time set apart to remember and a nostalgia for my childhood when mourning seemed like something of past and removed from my experience.
The line I remember best is one that we also sing in our Torah service, “Hashiveinu adonai elecha v’nashuvah, chadesh yameinu kikedem” “Return to us, God, and we will turn back to you; Renew our days of old.” Even when I thought little of what the words meant, I sensed the hope that came at the end of the reading, with the repetition of this line. These days, as I read and hear the responses to the many emotions we all feel watching the war in the Middle East, when I read the harsh ways people attack and criticize others for not thinking the same thing and feeling the same responses, that they do, I feel sad. This week I found comfort in this line from Lamentations. I think that when we turn away from each other, when we distrust those around us who don’t share our opinions, or those who care for Israel differently than we do, we lose God, and God turns away from us. When we can find the compassion to hear each other, to understand each other, and to find meaning in thoughts and feelings contrary to our own, we bring God towards us. I am hopeful that God will turn towards us, and that we will find a way to turn towards God, towards compassion, understanding and hope.