As I write this message in early July, we are emerging from the pandemic with some degree of confidence that the worst is behind us. We’re managing a bewildering mix of feelings — renewed optimism and lingering concern; joy in hugging family and friends again and sober reminders of massive death and economic losses; an appreciation of the simple and not-so-simple things we have taken for granted for so long. And the numbing after-effects of experiencing so much dread and fear, worry and anxiety, anger and helplessness, so much sorrow. In this crisis, we have absorbed – and we continue to carry — more than we know what to do with.
Rabbi Art Green reminds us that the Hebrew word for crisis is “mashber.” The word comes from the Hebrew root, shever, or brokenness. And indeed, much was broken during the pandemic. But mashber also refers to the birthing stone that women and midwives used in ancient times – perhaps referring to the breaking open of the womb. Something new can be born out of crisis, if we have strength and trust in the future. The breaking apart of structures and habits can birth new, more just, more equitable, more compassionate ways of living in this world.
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur offer us a way into the process of relearning our own lives – transforming mashber/crisis into mashber/birthing stone. What have we learned from this past year? What will we keep? What will we discard? What will sustain us? What will make us a more just society? I look forward to us exploring these questions, individually and as a congregation.
At Kol Ami our sights are aimed at High Holidays when we hope to gather again once more in the beautiful Sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, and to welcome and dedicate the new aron kodesh/sacred ark that will hold our Torah. The words chosen by the congregation that will adorn the inside of the ark are hashmi-ini et koleich/ let me hear your voice. These words are part of the love song of Song of Songs – and a riff on our congregational name, Kol Ami/ Voice of My People.
There is so much we yearn for. Coming together in services gives us permission to lift our voices and hear our prayers — and to have each of our voices be heard. And may we in turn hear the voice of the divine guiding us in our lives — entreating us to speak our innermost truths and to sing of life in all its possibilities.