Shabbat Shalom ~ Eikev 2023

Dear WJC Family,

It was good to be away for my summer break; it is great to be home. Don’t get me wrong – Acadia National Park actually exceeded expectations, and that’s saying something. Over the last several weeks we had exhilarating adventures on mountains (a thunderstorm standing on the peak of a mountain called Bald Peak at 1300’ when you are each holding metal poles is excellent motivation for a quick descent!) and pleasurable paddles on mountain lakes. We sat on Adirondack chairs as the soothing waves of Lake Ontario lapped against the rocks and we sang Shabbat songs at Camp Ramah with hundreds of Jewish voices of all ages. It was wonderful. Yet there is great comfort in coming home to my familiar bedroom and familiar kitchen, my familiar shul and familiar scenery. Comfortable is great. It’s great to be home.

This is, in fact, the season of comfort. One week ago we commemorated Tisha B’Av, the most distressing day on the Hebrew calendar, and now we are in the seven-week period of comfort from Tisha B’Av to Rosh HaShanah. The period is marked each Shabbat by the reading of a special haftarah of comfort. But why are we comforted after the terrible day of Tisha B’Av, or put differently, where do we find the joy and beauty amidst the tragedy and mess all around us? There are several answers to this question, a couple of which I will speak about on Friday evening at services, but the one I want to highlight here is the joy of resilience. Why are we joyful after Tisha B’Av? Because the Temple was destroyed and the Jewish people were cast into the wind to spread around the earth, and yet we are still here. And that is the Jewish story (or at least one aspect of it). Time after time we have been persecuted, banished, and targeted and yet we are still here. There is joy in our survival, joy in the comfort of our rituals, our synagogues, our Shabbat tables, our culture, and family connections. Celebrating our resilience even in the face of our difficult history, that is a very Jewish way to find joy.

And it is a particularly valuable asset as we read troubling news here in the US and abroad, especially in Israel, as we experience record heat waves and dangerous weather and worry about our children’s safety. Even as we work to address concerns and avert what each of us might see as tragedy, we also recognize that we have grit, we will survive and usually we will thrive and help make the world better in the long run. I, for one, find that idea very comforting.

And I know I will find it comforting to be back in the chapel on Shabbat, enjoying our lay-led services and the company of my WJC family. I hope I’ll see you in shul. See all the details below.

B’simchah (with joy),

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