The Day After: One Year Later
It was packed in the funeral home: with people and with emotions. Over 300 of us gathered this past Monday night, the Ninth of Av at the Plaza Memorial Chapel on the Upper West Side, to mourn a city that was destroyed long ago, a people ravaged by tragic wars, and a ruined temple. But we were not only thinking of history: we were also weeping for cities that have suffered war in recent weeks, for people struck by current violence and for sacred care replaced by rage, violence and hatred. This year’s fast day of Tisha B’av touched a deep chord for all of us, and as folks from Lab/Shul sat with folks from our sister congregation Romemu
– it felt good to be together -honestly dealing with what’s in our hearts and minds – on the journey to healing. It’s been a rough month. Crying, singing, praying and hoping together felt like the perfect way to honor the pain and start making room for renewal, and hope. For restart.
For Lab/Shul this night was also the marking of a milestone – our one year together as a congregation. Exaclty one year ago, on Tisha B’av, we held our first official Lab/Shul event in the East Village- starting to build a new sacred center by recalling the ancient temples that are no more.
It’s been an incredibly beautiful year of co-creation and growth. One year later – Lab/Shul is a fact and a cherished reality and a shrine for many of our highest aspirations and yearnings.
I think it makes so much sense for us to have this saddest day of the year as our annual reminder of mission and purpose as we focus on rebuilding the sacred experience.
And it’s been a tremendous year of personal growth for me as well.
In what can only be perfectly symbolic I spent Monday afternoon – before the Tisha B’Av event uptown – at a hospice in New Jersey, where the mother of a dear friend of mine, who is also a fan and supporter of Lab/Shul was taking her last breaths, losing her war to cancer.
I was asked to come and be with Jeffrey and his family as his mother Edie, unconscious, got ready to leave her body. This was my first time doing this – praying with the family, singing songs to her, reciting the S’hma.
She passed away
the following morning, Tisha B’av, at age 75.
May she rest in peace.
So that’s how I found myself sitting at a deathbed and later in a funeral home – both in one day, knowing that this too is now part of my role and responsibility. This is how our congregations is built. I wasn’t able to attend her funeral but Naomi Less represented our community – aiding the family through prayer and song.
On this saddest day on the calendar – and our one year anniversary – I think it is most fitting that I was called to serve in the capacity of spiritual support and pastoral care – to the Hurant family — and to our extended community on Tisha B’Av.
We get to co-create celebrations – and be there for the times when care is needed most: what can be a better definition of a sacred community in the making?
And then, on Tuesday night, just after breaking the fast, I got on a plane to Brazil – invited to teach at
Comunidade Shalom – a conservative congregation in Sau Paulo.
The day after Tisha B’av was the day in which the IDF starting to pull soldiers out of Gaza – a day in which no rockets were flying, no red alerts, no bombs.
The day after was the day to take a deeper breath, to mend the wounds, to asses the damage, to try and start again. With careful hope.
At Comunidade Shalom’s beautiful sanctuary a special event was held that night – a conversation about events in Israel, led by their leader – Rabbi Adrien Gottfried, and a guest speaker – expert on foreign policy. I was asked to say a few words and chose to talk about the day after – moving from ruins to hope. I spoke about the fox in the temple, and the laughter of the rabbi who saw beyond the here and now:
A Talmudic tale recounts the visit of a few sages in Jerusalem, a few years after the destruction of the city and the burning of the Temple. As they reach the Temple Mount, all ruins, they see a fox running through the rocks that were once the walls of the holy of holies. They weep with anguish, but one of them , Rabbi Akiva
His friends are perplexed by his reaction but he soothes them – and us:
There was a prophecy, he reminds us, that foxes will run through the ruined temple. And this incredible prophecy of Jeremiah came true. But there was another prophecy, by Zachariah, that one day, old women and men will sit in safety in a rebuilt Jerusalem and children will play in her streets. Just as that prophecy of gloom happened – so will the one of joy.
And with that laughter, on the day after, one year later, I wish healing and consolation upon us all.
To Jeffrey, his family and loved ones, upon the loss of their beloved wife, mother, sister and friend.
To all of the people in Israel, Gaza, and beyond – days of mending, courage, change for good.
To all of us all over the world, as the day of mourning is over and the High Holy Days begin the annual ascent – I hope we get to pause, gain perspective, take a deep breath, and get ready to restart our lives. again.