Honorable Mensch-ion

Ambiguous Loss

Pauline Boss, in her book “Ambiguous Loss” explains healing requires some measure of clarity. “Only when things are made right again can people put their losses to rest.” How could it be that last Shabbat, I attended a beautiful Bat Mitzvah, celebrated with a family at their moment of utmost joy, and just minutes later, glued to the news for the next ten hours, praying for the safety of the hostages in Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas? Questions flowed through our minds; could it have been us? Our worship spaces are intended for our safety and our refuge, not our danger and peril.

As Rabbis around the country processed the news, an online gathering of Conservative Rabbis convened to discuss how our communities can respond to the events of last Shabbat.

Rabbi Chery Peretz, of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, brought this verse from Proverbs to our attention.

“If there is anxiety in a person’s mind, let him quash it, and turn it into joy with a good word.” The Talmud elaborates, “One is urged to relieve distress. How do we do this? Rabbi Ami said one should force it out of his mind, while Rabbi Asi said one should tell his troubles to others.”

Essentially, we cannot ignore the facts that last week, members of a synagogue were held hostage while singing the song of the sea, as the Jews journeyed from slavery to freedom. We must share what we felt.

This week, we read of the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the moment of Divine revelation, a process which continues through our Jewish lives today. Another Bat Mitzvah will stand on the bima and recite, noten hatorah, God, thank you for giving me the gift of Torah.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov taught, “Get into the habit of singing a tune. It will give you new life and fill you with joy. It will dispel hardship.”

If there were ever a time to sing a song together, the time is now. Pauline Boss is correct; we need a moment of clarity. That moment is found in those words of Proverbs. As we accept the anxiety, let us dispel hardship, and come together.

This Shabbat is the time to show up. This Shabbat is the time to sing. This Shabbat is the time to re-engage with community. This Shabbat we will turn sackcloths into robes of joy.

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