Dear WJC Family,
These words are included in the Havdalah ceremony that we use to separate the holiness of Shabbat from the mundane nature of the rest of the week. In fact, the ritual is for everyone to say these words and the leader repeats them. It is a nice wish to carry into the regular week, that we should bring the light and joy of Shabbat with us to light up our weekdays with joy and gladness.
But where do these words come from? They appear in the Book of Esther 8:16. It is, in fact, a fraught moment. Mordechai and Esther have made their case to the king, Haman has been unmasked and brought low and Mordechai has been raised to a rank of near royalty. It is at this moment that we read “For the Jews there was light and joy, gladness and honor.” But that’s not the whole story. There is still an edict for the destruction of the Jews throughout the vast Persian Empire. The Jews will be allowed to defend themselves, but a defense still seems necessary. So the Jews were joyful, but the potential for disaster still lurked just around the corner.
Why end Shabbat with this particular quote from that particular moment? As my colleague Rabbi Barry Dov Katz pointed out earlier this week, it is because we too leave the sweetness of Shabbat and enter the week with optimism carrying the light of Shabbat before us, but we also enter the week knowing that there are still those who would seek to do us harm. This past week, as the curtain of Shabbat lifted and we sought to carry our joy into the week, the words of The Book of Esther seemed too fitting. We picked up our phones or turned on our computers to learn that a hostage crisis was happening at a synagogue in Texas.
Thanks to God and the bravery of Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, the captives won their freedom unharmed. So what are we to learn from our ancestors Esther and Mordechai? Knowing that there were still those who sought to harm the Jewish people, they still went out with light and joy. In the havdalah service we add three words to the verse from Esther – Ken Tihiyeh Lanu, So may it be with us. Even knowing what we know, even seeing what we’ve seen, may we have the fortitude to bring the light, peace and joy of our faith into the world – so may we be honored and worthy of honor – Ken Tihiyeh Lanu.
In my sermon on Shabbat morning, I will address a few of the more “spiritual” issues that the Colleysville, TX incident raised, particularly the conflicting values, like hospitality and safety, gathering and distancing. I hope you will join us in person or on the Live Stream – I know there is a conflict there too. It is our instinct to gather at moments like this, to show up for shul and for each other. I also know that the omicron wave of Covid-19 is still keeping many of us home. Luckily, we have all kinds of ways to gather these days, in person when we can and virtually when we cannot. Whatever way you join us, we will feel your presence. So…
See you in shul or online,
P.S. For something on the lighter side, join us Saturday night for the return of WJC Virtual Family Trivia Night hosted by the incomparable Bill Natbony! Details on the website.