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They Won’t Win

Today, there are tears. There is desperation, fear, frustration.
How many times can this happen to us?
Over the last couple of days, I was reading the book Man’s Search For Meaning. Viktor Frankl’s famous book in which he details his theories, further developed by his horrific experience in the Holocaust; his key focus is that when one believes their suffering has meaning, they can survive it. It’s when one feels hopeless, when one sees no meaning in their pain, that they collapse in the grief and everything ends.
This theory resonates deeply with the teachings of Chassidus, a school of thought, a way of life, that has been intertwined in mine forever. What I’ve learned, and believe so deeply, is that every single thing has meaning and purpose – even a leaf falling from a tree. How much more so, the greatest triumphs and tragedies in our life.
Yet, as I look at the images of Lori Kaye, the heroic woman who lost her life, it seems so cruel to even think these words. What kind of meaning can be found in the loss of a woman so full of life? What kind of purpose is there in the death of a mother and wife, a vibrant community member, a living, breathing human being?
I feel helpless in the wake of tragedy. My words feel useless, my conversations about nothing feel wasteful and my conversations about tragedy leave me aching. I’m tired, and I’m aching to be proactive.
What can we do?
As I opened my prayer book this morning, I read the very first words I read every morning “I hereby take upon myself [the mitzvah] “love your fellow as yourself.”
After taking every practical measure we can take to put our physical defenses up against inevitable hate and violence, what else can we do?
We can only love.
How often do we judge, tear down, blame, look down upon others for even the smallest of actions? How quickly do we assume we know someone’s entire self when we observe them for only a tiny part of their entire life?
We mutter under our breaths, we avoid people in supermarket aisles, we whine when we have to spend time with some.
We scroll through our social media feeds, mocking and laughing, tearing people apart when they can’t even defend themselves – perhaps that is worst of all.
Can we commit to perfection?
I think not.
For me to stand here, on this mournful day, and promise I’ll never think ill of another person based on large or small reasons is laughable and impossible.
But can I try?
Can I work at it, each day, just a little?
Can I keep my eyes focused forward, can I raise my voice in protest when those around me slip into negativity? Can I try to see the slightest positivity in an otherwise poor scenario?
Yes.
I can try.
And I will.
Because that – that is all I can do.
And perhaps, all of our collective trying, will inspire more and more doing, because in numbers comes great hate, but in numbers could come great beauty, and light, and joy.
And G-d knows we can use all of it we can get.
May the soul of Lori Kaye be lifted to the highest heights, and may all those who are suffering today find meaning in their pain.
Not today, but one day.
But until we get there, let us do what we still have the power to do – add more love.
I’m angry that we live in a world in which hate still has so much power – but I also believe we underestimate the power of love.
It’s easy to hate. It’s often harder to love. The harder the task, the sweeter the results. Hate is cowardly, love is brave.
G-d is hearing from me today because as I sit and chat with my 2-year-old nephew, I don’t want to think about him having to grow up in a dark world.
G-d is hearing from me today because I don’t want to keep having conversations about how we can better secure our synagogue, our home, our events that are quite literally held to spread the light of Judaism.
G-d is hearing from me today because I don’t want to have to one day look my children in the eye, and somehow explain, and calm, and console the pain that comes from realizing the world is a scary place.
G-d is hearing from me today because a woman is being buried before she lived out her life, because she was forced to die, because she represented light, and she came face to face with evil, and it seems like evil keeps winning.
G-d is hearing from me today.
But I was put on this earth to give back to this world, and you bet I’m going to do my best to only give it light.
Throughout our history, they’ve come for us, they’ve hurt us, they took our loved ones, kicked us in the dirt, and laughed in our faces.
But you know who always won?
It was us.
Dirt streaked, tear-filled, weary and tattered, the Jewish nation has always come through the other side, raising a hand in victory.
And we’ll do it again.
Bearing our torches. Shining our light, try as they do to envelop us in darkness. We’ve got a spirit that can be broken and trodden upon, but it can’t be put out.
They’ve tried before.
But they don’t know what we know:
Evil will never claim victory, not in the end.

Let’s Talk About: #HappyChallenge

happinessWhen I was 12, I didn’t spend a lot of time with my grandparents. I lived in a different state, and we visited a few times a year. Each time we visited, we had dinner with my fathers parent’s, spending the evening with them. I was never really part of the conversation- it was always a very adult conversation, filled real life problems.

At some point during the year, I had the chance to spend two weeks in NY without the rest of my family. My brother who lived there at the time suggested that we go eat dinner with my grandparents, just the two of us.

So we did.

We ate in the kitchen, rather than the dining room.

The food was still just as thoughtfully and beautifully prepared, and there was plenty of it.

The conversation was different, with no parents or my other siblings around.

We spoke about me.

Well, my grandmother brought it up. She asked me about my writing. I, bashfully admitted that I was writing a novel (cringe.)

Interested, in only a way that a grandmother can be, she asked me what it was about.

Thrilled to receive the attention that my project so deserved,in my opinion, I described the plot in great detail. It obviously held details about tragedy and pain and suffering.

When I finished, my grandmother sighed and said “Why does everyone write about sad things? Why can’t someone write about something happy?”

At the time, I rolled my eyes. (In my head, not in reality. I was a good kid.)

All I said was, with the experience of a long-time writer, “Bubby, people aren’t going to read about happy things”

Somehow, it’s been three years since I last saw my Bubbys beautiful face.

Three years since I heard her laugh, and felt her hug, three years since I held her hand, and kissed her cheek with tears in my eyes, begging her to fight for us.

Three years since I heard her ask “Nu, Etti, what’s doing with your writing?”

It breaks my heart that I never got to show her anything worth reading.

It breaks my heart that she was my cheerleader, but I haven’t yet done anything to make her proud.

I haven’t written anything happy.

All my life, my pen came out when I was mad. When I was crying. When I was hurt and broken.

After my Bubby passed away, I wrote twelve things about losing her in the first week.

When I became distanced from beloved friends, I wrote.

When I was rejected from a school my friends were going to, I wrote.

When my grandfather passed away this past summer, I wrote.

When I was in the depths of my war against G-d, I wrote.

When things feel like they are falling apart, when my heart feels too small for all the sadness it feels, I turn to words.

But the one person who always remembered my love for words, the one person who asked about my greatest passion every time she saw me, asked me to write something happy.

Why haven’t I?

Tonight is Chanukah. The very first night of an eight day holiday that focuses on bringing light into the world.

I have had too much to write about the past few weeks. I don’t share everything I write. It would exhaust you. It exhausts me.

The pain is everywhere, the tears the world has shed can overflow the oceans.

Every human is in pain. Everyone is struggling, everyone is suffering. The world is the most terrifying place to be right now, and the fact that we are all in it together is not comforting this time.

Death is a reality, instead of a distant thought.

Self-identity is near impossible to discover, self-love is warped, and turns out, our world is self-destructing.

How can I not write about the pain?

But Chanukah is coming.

How am I helping the world by adding more pain?

There are eight nights of Chanukah.

I can find eight things this week that are happy. That are beautiful. That are universally heart-warming.

That is my challenge to myself this week.

I owe it to my grandmother.

I owe it to my self.

I’d love for you all to join me.

The #happychallenge.

We all need this.

I have one thing to ask of G-d though.

G-d? Please help me with this. Help me see the light in a world of darkness.

Make the light shine brighter and longer.

We need more than eight days of light, we need a lifetime, a never ending supply of happiness.

But I’ll start with these eight.

May this be the the easiest thing I have ever done.

Amen.