I’m wondering if you gasped, as I did, seeing Nazi flags marched through the streets of Charlottesville. I’m sure you looked on in horror as men with torches surrounded a church holding an interfaith service and shouted “Jews will not replace us” and “blood and soil”, slogans taken from Nazi Germany.
Not as well publicized was that on that particular Saturday morning, as a synagogue worshipped for Shabbat services, Neo-Nazis marched by several times chanting “Sieg Heil.” The rabbi called for police protection (which didn’t arrive) because three Nazis stood menacingly across the street with semi-automatic rifles. The congregants left through the back door, in small groups. To be cautious, the Torahs (including a scroll from the Holocaust) were removed from the building.*
Can you imagine?
There are simply no words for the punch in the stomach that came with seeing a car purposely ram into the crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and throwing bodies through the air.
Equally horrifying we heard Donald Trump say “both sides are to blame” and there were “fine people” among the Nazis and Klansman and white nationalists who carried guns and bats.
We know better. Fine people they are not.
We say “never again” and we mean it.
I sit in stunned silence. I know so many of you did the same, because every single post on my Facebook feed was a cry of anguish that continues to this day.
At the very same time, an African American friend wrote me with concern and love: “just checking in with you” she said. A Christian woman I barely know called simply to offer comfort through her own tears.
Here’s the only way I know how to walk through this place we find ourselves: to hold two perspectives at the very same time.
One is – there is much work to do – stand up, speak out, stay awake.
The other perspective is to practice gratitude, do self-care, notice beauty, and feed our souls.
My friends, we must hold both. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can do the work needed to repair this broken world. We need to speak and act for justice so that our world is one we can be proud to leave to our children and grandchildren.
Ready or not, the month of Elul is here with the daily call of the shofar, reminding us to awaken and reflect.
Our tradition offers us a full month to spiritually prepare for the year ahead..To return home.
Many of us feel like we have too much on our plates to stop and reflect.
But – there’s deep wisdom in the rhythm of the seasons that strengthens us to live in the ebb and flow of the year.
The place? Exactly where you are. The time? Now.
Deep spiritual work takes time to unfold. We have the whole month of Elul (which begins next Tuesday night August 22.)
What will unfold in you this season? Will you take the time to pay attention?
The work in the world is not going to go away. We are living in dark times as we witnessed in Charlottesville. Our whole, strong, clear selves are desperately needed.
Don’t miss the pull of this time of year to feed your soul and to listen to the call of the shofar.
- (you can read the full account from the president of Congregation Beth Israel of Charlottesville on my facebook page here.)