Rabbi Leder's Shabbat Message - December 31, 2021

  • Clergy
  • Shabbat

It’s wet and cold outside. I have not driven my car in more than a week or worn real pants for two—no reason to. I do not have cabin fever, although I would have predicted it if you had asked me pre-pandemic what staying mostly at home for almost two years would do to me. I am not depressed. Although I would have predicted that too. But I am tired a lot, and bored, and feel a little empty somehow. I am shut in, hunkered down, hibernating, and waiting…but I am not sure what for. I feel oddly conflicted lately ending my emails and texts with “Happy New Year!” and some silly, celebratory bitmoji. Because right now, New Year’s seems like it will be just another day and 2022 just another year with the same stupidity on the news and the same dashed hopes for an end to the daily threat of Covid-19 in a country and world that cannot seem to pull itself together. Okay, maybe I really am depressed, at least a little. Maybe a lot of us are…

But Nick Cave (as in punk rocker Nick Cave and the Bad Seed) just snapped me out of it. I first read this quote from him last week in an email from my friend Rachel. It called to me again just now, much like the Torah often does, with a truth I know well yet sometimes forget: 

There is, of course, another side where we lose our resolve — we drop our guard, or just grow tired and descend into that other, darker, less-lovely world, as we disconnect and retreat deep into ourselves… These revolving feelings of connection and disconnection…are the opposing forces of loss that define our lived experience… Many of us inhabit this uncanny realm of loss — and all of us will find our way there in time….

Absence can become a feverish comment on that which remains. That which remains rises in time from the dark with a burning physicality — a luminous super-presence — as we acquaint ourselves with this new and different world. In loss things — both animate and inanimate — take on an added intensity and meaning.

This feeling… of alertness to the inner-spirit of things — this humming — comes from a hard-earned understanding of the impermanence of things and, indeed, our own impermanence. This lesson ultimately animates and illuminates our lives. We become witnesses to the thrilling emergency of the present — a series of exquisite and burning moments, each extinguished as the next arises. These magical moments are the bright jewels of loss to which we cling.

He is so right. I have surrendered when I should put on some pants, get out of mthe house, stand up and fight; fight to remember the many beautiful moments of the year soon ending—the bright jewels of laughter, kindness, and accomplishment. It is time to count my blessings. A roof over my head and a full refrigerator in my kitchen. All those beautiful fall days; golden and reddish leaves against the crisp, blue sky. The people I love most gathered around the Shabbat table--warm bread, candles, and wine. 

The New Year is a gift and a reckoning, a challenge and a miracle; a precious series of “exquisite and burning moments.” Each of them warming us even when, especially when, the rain falls. 
Happy New Year, love and Shabbat shalom,