Rosh Chodesh Kislev began at sundown Wednesday, Nov. 7. This is the month of miracles, rainbows, dreams and dreamers, and a time to light the darkness as winter approaches. In the wake of the hate crime at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, however, many are still feeling shaken, depleted and hopeless. We mourn, yet again, grieving the loss of innocent victims who, this time, were attending a Shabbat service in their community.
Like every Shabbat, that morning I did yoga for an hour. I felt peaceful, hopeful and full of love in anticipation of our daughter’s upcoming wedding this month. Upon hearing the news, all of that joy shattered like the glass set to be under her groom’s foot. I tried to hold the peaceful intent of Shabbat, but failed. The heavy-hearted pressure in my chest wouldn’t lift, even after releasing a deluge of tears. I asked myself, “How can we experience a month of miracles and light when our collective hearts are broken and there’s pervasive fear?”
A few days prior, two African-Americans were also shot and killed by a white man at a Kentucky Kroger. He had attempted to do harm at an African American church, but when that failed, he went to the grocery store. Also in the news were the intercepted mail bombs sent to prominent Democrats.
No one seems exempt from fear. Daylight Savings Time ended, extending the hours of physical darkness and increasing feelings of vulnerability and depression for many. Sadly, there’s always a background vigilance as we scan our world to try to discern who wishes to cause harm and who doesn’t. Safety and security can no longer be presumed.
I’ve been flooded with clients discussing their fears. Some are Jewish, many are not, but the fears are the same. People blame the president, Democrats, Republicans, the media, and even technology for the violence in our world.
It seems that the filters have changed through which individuals try to gauge their level of safety. It used to be, if they aligned with a specific group that had been targeted, they felt threatened. If not, they felt less so. Now people report not feeling safe. There have been shootings at schools, malls, movie theaters, nightclubs, churches and synagogues. Vans have mowed down crowds of people in the U.K., Spain and France, as violence continues all over the world, changing targets on any given day.
People are wrestling with succumbing to their fears. We don’t know the intentions of someone sitting behind us, walking down the street or shopping in a grocery store. Hate is hate, and we have no way of knowing what cracks of light might suddenly be filled with darkness. Most of us are not equipped to battle with evil, so all we can do is light the world with the power of love, while protecting ourselves as best we can. It’s prudent to take precautions to ensure safety, but the rest is out of our domain. These may not be more violent times, just that we’re exposed to violence, in real time, like never before.
It’s time to change our view that a love-filled world is an immature, Pollyanna vision, and that war equals strength and power. Gandhi’s words, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” have been paraphrased from the more complete quote: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. We need not wait to see what others do.”
The energy of Kislev was embodied at the recent memorial and healing services that took place at synagogues across our nation. Religious leaders of all faiths prayed in unity with us for peace. In these darkest of times, we need Kislev’s light of hope. We’ll also accept miracles.
Meditation Focus: What thoughts and actions of yours, even in small ways, fuel hatred and create separation? Stop them and run every thought and action through the filter of love and choose those that promote peace.