Shabbat Shalom ~ Devarim 2022

Dear WJC Family,

It’s been a whirlwind month of travel for the Arnowitz family with members traveling to Israel, Massachusetts, Utah, Colorado and Upstate (way, way Upstate). I am so grateful for the break and so excited to be back here in Mamaroneck looking to Shabbat and the year ahead. Today, I want to share with you a little bit of wisdom gained at the top of the world, Brainard Lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. It is one of the most beautiful and most troubling places I have ever visited. Let me explain how it can be both, because there is wisdom in the answer.

This Shabbat is technically also the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av, the anniversary of several of the worst tragedies to befall the Jewish people, including the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. It is an anniversary of sorts – Tisha B’Av literally means the 9th day of the month of Av. We won’t observe the commemoration of Tisha B’av on the anniversary though. Tisha B’Av will be observed on the 10th of Av, pushed off a day by the holiness of Shabbat.

This is one of those odd Jewish customs that begs explanation. You can’t just put off an anniversary or birthday just because the nature of the day has changed – ask anyone born on 9/11. We just need to learn to hold more than one emotion, more than one reality, at once. In this case though, as if to highlight that the beauty and holiness of a holy day and rituals can at least blunt the terrible and the tragic, we fully push off almost any recognition of Tisha B’Av until Sunday, the 10th of Av. The terrible needs to be acknowledged and faced, but not in a vacuum.

On Sunday, July 10, a couple dozen people who love Tami’s brother Michael, including his children, parents, siblings and extended family gathered at Brainard Lake for a Memorial Service, as he had requested. It was one of Michael’s favorite places and perhaps this was his last gift to us all. For there at 10,300 feet, the world seemed simpler and more beautiful, both because of the natural beauty around us and the strength that came from being together, and in that beauty we could face the pain of our loss a little more easily and a little more honestly. It was beautiful and terrible and we held it all at once. That may well be what it means to be human, to hold opposing realities in one hand at the same time – the wondrous and the wondering, the awesome and the awful.

As we celebrate this Shabbat together and then turn Saturday night to share a final seudat mafseket, pre-fast meal (7:15pm in the Activity Center), and chant the horrifying Megillah of Eichah, I can honestly say that I feel privileged to be here with you; holding onto each other as we hold tight to the opposing truths of life. Here is wishing us a year in which the beauty far outweighs the pain, and during which we effectively wield the holiness, beauty and compassion of our faith as an effective tool to blunt the hard parts.

See you in shul,

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