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Rabbi's Message

04/10/2020 06:32:37 PM


Dear chevreh,


I hope that you had meaningful and joyful seders even as they were not how we would have imagined them to be a month ago. It was wonderful to see so many of your faces at our KHN CyberSeder. Thank you to Allyson Zacharoff, Howard Parker, the Lerman family and all those who participated.


Many of us had a cup of water at our seders representing Miriam’s well, which our tradition teaches accompanied the Israelites in their wanderings and is still with us. Miriam and her nurturing waters provide healing, inspiration and wisdom. During Passover we encounter another instance of prayers or rituals concerning sustaining waters. There are special prayers around Sukkot for rain and around Passover for dew. From the first day of Passover until Shemini Atzeret, we substitute the liturgical passage morid hatal, "Who brings down dew", for mashiv haruach u'morid hageshem, "Who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall", in the second paragraph of the Amidah. Both prayers align with the two main agricultural seasons in the land of Israel, winter being the rainy season in Israel. Even though summer is long, dry and hot, just a little regular dew could mark the difference between an abundant harvest season and an unsuccessful one in ancient times, so both the obvious rains and the more subtle dew were experienced as Divine gifts.


Rabbi Rachel Barenblat writes about dew: “Dew is sustenance which arises as if by magic. Overnight, something mysterious occurs and when we wake water gilds the grasses and the fields. (Of course, the scientific processes are well-understood -- I'm sure it has something to do with temperatures and condensation -- but I prefer to think of dew as a mystery.) Dew represents divine grace: omnipresent, mysterious, blessing everyone equally no matter who we are.” []


While we live outside the land of Israel, and enjoy different weather patterns, these prayers ask us to notice the shift in the natural world around us as we move through our Jewish calendar and our lives. Just yesterday as we were studying midrashim on the plagues taught by Anne Pettit, it started hailing with winds gusting just as we were studying about hail. Today, as I spoke to people from my home, the skies alternated between bright sun lighting up the pink blossoms and spring-green trees, and a dark blustery sky. I take a walk outside in my yard each morning and pay close attention to the new and renewed life unfolding each day.


It’s certainly a more dramatic to experience the hail and winds that gust through, and are over in three minutes than to observe the slow unfolding of trees, bushes and plants. Kohenet Sarah Chandler writes, “Praying for dew means asking for the capacity to honor this moment and not ask for anything else. What would it look like to stop pushing away the present moment, hoping the next will be more fulfilling?...Dew reminds us that huge life achievements are not the best measurement of happiness...Dew seems insignificant, but it’s actually able to sustain life itself. For centuries, desert dwellers have known that wool can absorb enough dew from the rocks to harvest for the day’s water. Farmers can divert dew collected in moss to water their crops. What other blessings are within our reach, yet unnoticed?” []


Over this Shabbat - during the time that we are in this Passover season as we move toward Shavuot, counting the Omer each day - I hope that we can all cultivate or discover a delicate sustaining practice and/or connection to something in our tradition or in the natural world which like dew, may seem insubstantial or inconsequential, but which actually gives us life.


Shabbat shalom,


Rabbi Diana

Wed, July 28 2021 19 Av 5781