Chazak vya’ametz libecha: Be strong and courageous

Beloved community,

This weekend brings with it the sweet reward of Shabbat, but it also carries with it palpable and familiar fear, in response to Sunday’s rally in DC, where nazis and white supremacists plan to march. To even write these words brings up waves of fear and electricity in my body, feelings of despair at having to plan for such things in such times, memories of last year’s violence in Charlottesville, memories and fears much older than my lifetime but in my Jewish memory. I fear for the safety of the protestors who will stand in opposition to the rally, I fear for the safety of collective all-of-us: Black, Brown, indigenous, queer, trans, Jewish, Muslim, disabled, undocumented, workers, sex workers, and all other identities that white supremacy seeks to destroy. But I am bolstered by the powerful response from DC organizers, our own organizers in Baltimore, and the collective power and trust in our Hinenu community.

Tonight when we welcome in Shabbat, we’ll also be welcoming in the period of Rosh Hodesh, the start of the new month. Sunday will be the first of the month of Elul, a month dedicated to deep self examination, reflection, and preparation ahead of Rosh Hashanah. The beginning of the month of Elul shouts “hey, there’s a month to go before you have to account for who you are! Get busy!” The month of Elul whispers “did you forget about how you are an agent in your own existence?” We know what work and accounting is ahead of us during the High Holy Days, we’re about to get called out, and called in. Here are two key practices I want to share with you about Elul:

Every morning this month we can hear the call of the shofar. The first time we hear the call of the shofar is not in services on Rosh Hashanah, not a dramatic introduction to the pomp and grandeur of the holiday, but a month earlier. Because Elul reminds us--the risks we take at this time of preparing to account for ourselves are much greater.

The call of the shofar is many things all at once:

A battle cry, of an army ready to attack
An artifact, of the primordial sound of the whole world being created
A call of warning, for incoming danger
A synesthetic reminder, the sound of receiving Torah at Mount Sinai
An announcement, on the arrival of the new moon
An invitation, to go deeper into ourselves

In Elul Jews from Ashkenazi tradition begin reciting Psalm 27 every day. This one may be familiar to you as the psalm recited at funerals, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil.” This psalm so fully describes the hemmed in feeling, the no way out feeling, the fear of enemy feeling. The end of Psalm 27 proclaims:

קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְה֫וָ֥ה חֲ֭זַק וְיַאֲמֵ֣ץ לִבֶּ֑ךָ וְ֝קַוֵּ֗ה אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃
Look to the LORD; be strong and of good courage! O look to the LORD! (Psalm 27:14)

The enemy feels like it is closing in, but we can look to each other, look to God or Godliness in the world, and be made courageous.

There are many ways to stand up to this oncoming threat. On Sunday, Hinenu is co-sponsoring a rally and speakout at Penn Station in response to the Unite the Right nazi rally in DC. Hinenu member Zachary Berger will offer a misheberach blessing. Following the rally, all who are able will take the train to DC together. For more information about marching with the group, contact Jonah or Evan. For more information about the rally and related events, click here.

Opposing and stamping out fascism and white supremacy from our midst does not require marching--many of us cannot physically make the trip, or emotionally withstand the proximity and potential for violence. Many of us might not want to bring children, or cannot find care providers for children or sick family, or have work obligations.

In the season of the high holy days, which we’re now in, some people wish one another “a gut kvitl,” Yiddish for “a good note.” As in, may you be written in the book of life for good. So if you care to offer blessing, your outrage, your protection to those of our community who will be going down, please send me an email with a word or short sentence. I will write these blessings out, and bring them to the rally Sunday morning for the marchers to take with them. There are many, many ways to show up.

May you be blessed with a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat of peace and wholeness,
Rabbi Ariana