This morning, I attended Gann Academy's Reform Minyan as part of Z'man Kodesh ("Sacred Time"). I don't often pray, and I attend minyanim and services even less frequently, but two of our students, Jess and Jacob, had planned it, and they invited me, so I went.
Communal prayer is something so simple, yet so sacred - people coming together to recite and sing ancient liturgy and its modern interpretations, knowing that while they are all there for their own reasons and hoping for varied outcomes, there is an overlap in the words we say and the tradition from which it comes. Regardless of one's personal beliefs in God or the power of our prayers to reach God, prayer gives us the opportunity to stop, come together, breathe, reflect, and move forward - together.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a prominent theologian and civil rights leader who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote:
God's Presence to suffuse our spirits,
God's will to prevail in our lives.
Prayer may not bring water to parched fields,
nor mend a broken bridge,
nor rebuild a ruined city.
But prayer can water an arid soul,
mend a broken heart,
rebuild a weakened will.
This reflection and rejuvenation are stepping stones to a better understanding of the world around us, our place in it, and the ways in which we can affect it. During our teen text study last night, they learned that while we are responsible for seeking answers to things we don't understand, the Torah teaches us that we are not expected to provide explanations. While we are able to find individual meaning in tragedy, we are often left with more questions than answers.
We sang Ozi v'Zimrat Yah, for which Jess shared a different translation than the one found in our prayer book: "My strength and Divine Song will bring my liberation." Prayer can help us discover answers, it is an insight into ourselves and the world around us, but alone it is not enough to effect change.
Our students are writing petitions to the town of Needham to change traffic laws to better protect pedestrians. Teens in Florida and around the country are appealing to elected officials to address gun control and mental health initiatives and legislation. When the world didn't have answers for them, they mourned, they held each other close, and they wrote their own answers, because they know that we are not alone in our grief and in our desire to make the world a better place.
Today is Rosh Chodesh Adar, the first day of the Hebrew month of Adar. Our tradition teaches that "when the month of Adar arrives, we increase in joy" as we celebrate Purim and remember that Adar was transformed from an anticipated month of mourning into a month of joy when Esther and Mordechai were able to save the Jewish people from Haman. We celebrate the joy of safety and security and of the ability to be true to who we are. We don masks and costumes in an attempt to hide our identities as Esther did, but remember the importance of celebrating our true selves and the value we each bring to our world, individually and together.
Like we choose our mask, we are also able to choose our true self. This Adar, who will you be?
Rosh Chodesh Tov - Happy New Month. May your happiness increase, and may this Shabbat bring you peace and comfort.
Leah & the TBE Youth Team
Resources for Coping with Tragedy and Confronting Hatred >>
Learn more about Temple Beth Elohim Congregants to Prevent Gun Violence >>