December 2021 Tevet 5782
We are entering the new moon of the darkest month of the year, the Hebrew month of Tevet, the time when all the candles on the Chanukah menorah are lit to help us find our way through the darkness and into the light. In this month, the heat of our anger can overwhelm us, and we are called to tame the fires within and heal the wounds that trigger us. Already, we are seeing and hearing about uncontrolled rage flaming up on airplanes, in school board meetings, on city streets. Before the conflagrations erupt any further in our personal and collective lives, this is the month to address the smoldering embers of disappointment, disillusionment, and fear, and transform our anger.
How can we release our anger when we are faced with yet another recurrence of Covid-19 that will inevitably continue to disrupt our lives and prevent us from returning to what we so yearn for – the illusive “normal?” The challenge is the normal has disappeared. And we haven’t yet created a new way to work, to play, to gather, to pray. We’re in between the old and the new, the what was and what can be. The conflict over how to communicate our country’s founding story of democracy is an example of this tug of war between competing perspectives.
We know ourselves and each other by the stories we tell and pass down through the centuries. I just this year learned from Kohenet Rabbi Jill Hammer that in North African countries, women have been celebrating the holiday Chag HaBanot, the Festival of the Daughters, on the seventh night of Chanukah throughout the generations. They link the heroism of Judith, the Jewish woman who saved her community from destruction, to the successes of the Maccabees who we celebrate at Chanukah time, bringing women’s courage and agency into the celebration.
I feel the challenge of this exploration of origins even more personally in the class, “Ancestral Healing,” I’m taking that invites participants to examine the power dynamics in our family of origin. This takes me down unexamined rabbit holes that uproot memories not touched before or maybe remembered and tamped down because they were too hot to handle without the guiding hand of a skilled mentor. I’m probing old traumas with my women allies who are supporting my journey as we talk on zoom after each class. Releasing anger at past injustices, I can move forward with greater freedom and find forgiveness for myself and others.
Is it possible for us as a country to uncover the truth of our history and stretch our imagination to envision a new story encompassing us all? Can we release memories of rage and bitterness, let go of grievances, and find peace? I believe this is the time to make a cosmic restoration and lift up the fallen sparks back to the One. Our future depends on this critical moment, on the new story we can weave and embody as a united people on this planet.
As Martin Buber wrote, “Every human action is a vessel of infinite responsibility.” We each have the power within ourselves to make an individual tikkun, a personal healing. Each of us can take back our own power by relinquishing the anger that consumes our energy and saps our ability to heal. With courage and hope, we can address this broken world and take it one step closer to a place that values justice, healing, and peace. Let us pray for enough light to enter through the cracks to guide us forward and shine our way to a new visions of the possible.