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The spiritual risks of lingering in the place of our pain

This article originally appeared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter Recharge. To sign up to receive Recharge each week in your inbox, click here.

(JTA) — How often have I sat in my tears over these last weeks? How many minutes have I spent in the ruins — the ruins of people’s lives, the ruins of fixed ideas, the ruins of hope. I keep my eyes on my inbox and watch as people jump to the doing, the rallying cries and the articulation of positions. Some of these seem sensible, some are frightening. But even when I agree with them, the words don’t change the feeling. Because I am not there yet. I am still crying in the ruins.

A story from Talmud comes to mind. In the course of a conversation about the proper circumstances for prayer, we are told about Rabbi Yosei ben Chalafta, who is visiting Jerusalem when the time comes for the afternoon prayer. So he ducks into a ruined house. This was the century following the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. Ruin was the landscape.

Rabbi Yosei begins his prayer but notices that he is being watched. It is the prophet Elijah, standing guard. When the prayer ends, the prophet scolds the rabbi for praying in a ruin. He should have prayed on the road, Elijah says. Rabbi Yosei explains that he was afraid of being interrupted by travelers and would have been unable to concentrate. But Elijah says he should have done it anyway.

Why? Why not pray in the quiet privacy of the ruin? The Talmud explains that there are dangers there. Demons may attack you. There is a risk of prostitution or lewd behavior. And there is the obvious fear that the physical structure could simply collapse on top of you.

The Talmud articulates this as a worry about physical risks. But I think the sages might have been just as concerned about the spiritual risks of lingering in the place of our pain. They are worried that we might be further harmed, or we might fetishize our trauma or become trapped in it altogether and unable to escape. So keep moving, the prophet seems to say. Let your prayer practice bend to the momentum. If you have to, offer a short version of your prayer to be done quicker. Just don’t linger in the memory of destruction.

Grief on the scale of the fall of Jerusalem ultimately requires a vessel that both honors and contains it. This vessel ultimately came to be the fast of Tisha B’Av, when we gather as a community to mourn. We pull the Book of Lamentations from the shelf and weep and chant our way through it. This is the frame that both expresses and contains our ancient grief. How long did it take our ancestors to reach a place where containment of that grief was possible?

A couple weeks ago, I attended an event for an AIDS service organization that I ran in the 1990s. Four decades have passed since its founding and the HIV epidemic is no longer an unceasing hammer of destruction. I walked into the ballroom and saw the faces of people I knew back when and I pictured the faces of people who are now long gone. Almost instantly, I was back in the ruins. I listened to the speeches and nibbled the hors d’oeuvres, but I struggled to contain my grief. Elijah might have told me to hit the road, but I didn’t want to run. The sadness was breaking my heart, but it was sweet too. Feeling the absence of old friends and colleagues was akin to feeling their presence; my grief was another flavor of love.

The Talmud also has mixed emotions about that sad place. Elijah reprimands Rabbi Yosei ben Chalafta for praying in the ruin, but in fact no actual harm befell him. So while this story is a scold, it is not clearly a cautionary tale. And more, the Talmud admits that there is a sweetness to praying in the ruin.

After a beat to change gears, Elijah asks the rabbi, “What did you hear while you were praying?” Rabbi Yosei responds that he heard a bat kol, a heavenly voice, and it was cooing like a dove. Elijah leans in further, and the rabbi tells him that the heavenly voice spoke words, saying, “Alas for my children, because of whose sins I destroyed my house and sent them into exile.”

Elijah excitedly tells Rabbi Yossei that such a voice cries out those words three times a day, every day. But the fact is that it was only here, in the brokenness of the broken building, that Rabbi Yosei was able to hear God’s own lament. In the ruin, he felt a divine companionship that was not obvious to him elsewhere. As Psalm 34 says, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” Perhaps that is the attraction of the ruin, that in our deepest grief we most clearly hear tza’ar hashechinah, the sorrow of the divine, cooing like a dove.

So when we find ourselves in the ruins, in the place of deep brokenness, we must remember to get out. And also to stay. For it is in the ruin that we and God cry together.


The post The spiritual risks of lingering in the place of our pain appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by Aish.com that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees Aish.com‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of hotels.com and the seed funder of Aish.com’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

The post Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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