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Dancing Through Our Tears

05/01/2023 02:40:16 PM


The following was written by Rabbi Rachel Kobrin, the spiritual leader at Congregation Rodef Shalom of Denver, Colorado.  It is shared with her permission.

-Jesse Lunin-Pack, President of the Board of Trustees


Dancing Through Our Tears - Israel at 75

20 years ago, there was a bombing in the cafeteria of the Hebrew University. Two Pardes students, Marla Bennett z”l and Ben Blustein z”l were killed in that attack. Two bright, visionary, compassionate  Pardes students, beloved by their friends. Between their two funerals, their close friends from Pardes, Andy and Emily, got married. Rav Danny Landes, the Rosh Yeshiva at the time at Pardes, writes:

Andy called me with a sheilah (question) He asked if it was not more correct to delay the wedding, given the catastrophe. I thought of my Tosafist forebears who answered the exact same questions during the murderous violence of the Crusaders. I channeled their response: ‘Now more than ever, your wedding must continue.’”

At the tisch, Rav Landes shared that he had a vision of his late grandfather, leaning over him, saying,

Remember what I taught you regarding the famous section in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes). ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose unto Heaven.’ It is followed by a series of opposing couplets in the infinitive, starting – a time to be born / a time to die – but then that structure is broken up by a pair in the continuous present – a time of mourning / a time of dancing! You will see that there will be a time that you must mourn, and you must dance simultaneously.”

Rav Landes writes:

I told this over to my students – ‘If you want to celebrate, dance! If you must mourn, dance!’”

And that’s what happened. They danced with more abandon than they could have imagined. They danced and cried and danced some more. 

The great Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, agrees with Rav Landes in his critique of Ecclesiastes: 

A man doesn’t have time in his life to have time for everything. He doesn’t have seasons enough to have a season for every purpose. Ecclesiastes was wrong about that. A man needs to love and to hate at the same moment, to laugh and cry with the same eyes, with the same hands to throw stones and gather them, to make love in war and war in love.” 

This past week we commemorated Yom HaZikaron and today we celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut — making our way through a calendar that was designed specifically to move us directly from grief to joy. Yet sometimes, the joy and the grief feel entwined and cannot be separated neatly by sunsets. 

Some of us may feel challenged in celebrating Yom HaAtzmaut with full heart this year. These past months have been so difficult. They have been marked by many heartbreaking, violent acts perpetrated towards Jews — the horror and trauma of terror that some of our community members have directly experienced in past years as survivors, and carry with them every day.   And, to our shame, these past months have also been marked by heartbreaking, violent acts perpetrated by Jews — acts that we want to yell are “not in our name!” Acts that leave traumatic scars and wounds and deepen this cycle of hate. We have watched Israeli democracy under threat and we have wrung our hands in the air with frustration. And, as we helplessly secured our seats as outspoken onlookers here in the United States, we watched with pride as Israelis have stood up for their democracy, rallying in the streets with flags, showing us the heart and soul of our Jewish nation. 

We may well hold mixed emotions on this Yom HaAtzmaut. Grief and joy, pride and shame, hope and frustration. All in the same moment. 

We can love Israel for the incredible country that she is,  and we can joyfully celebrate her — while still holding the pain and frustration for areas we believe she has missed the mark. We can celebrate all that Israel is after 75 tremendous, miraculous years of existence —  without giving up on all that we believe she can be. Our love and our celebration has the power to inspire us to dream bigger and work harder.

Birthdays are about past achievements, but they are also about the hope and blessing of what is to come. May we carry all of our hopes and dreams with us into this year’s celebration. 

Happy Birthday.

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784