Autumn Time

Autumn. Such a poetic season; sweet melancholy, golden leaves and a sense of transition. Times of passage require that we let go of the past and wonder what the future will bring.  Rites of passage offer moments of discomfort and discontent intertwined with expectations and excitement of things to come.

Yom Kippur is an autumn High Holiday. It has nothing of the lightheartedness of summer. It is a time for contemplation and soul searching, asking for forgiveness and forgiving. It is an opportunity to let go and make new resolutions.

Asking for Forgiveness

Images of bodies of toddlers washed to the shore having drowned at sea in search of a sfae haven. Footage of a father holding his dead babies to his chest and refusing tp let them go. Images of terrible destruction, chaos and millions of refugees. Thousands of photos that show the naked horror. Good people providing aid and support to the lucky ones who found temporary shelter. Rare moments of human generosity.

But at the end of the day, no one has done anything to stop the carnage in Syria. Millions of words said and written in the news, in position papers and strategic plans and policy analysis on the “Syrian issue”.

  But at the end of the day, no one has done anything to stop the carnage in Syria.

On good days, we do not look away from the photos; on bad days, we ignore them.

We must ask for forgiveness for our tolerance to human suffering.

Open S(c)ores

New age doctrine tells us to let go; to loosen up our clenched fists that hold long time angers, insults and unfinished businesses. In return, there is a promise of tremendous relief and a sense of well-being to those who take the higher ground.

It is important to let go; to forgive and to dump the unnecessary load of tormenting memories that take up way too much storage space. Genuinely forgiving those who have wronged against us releases us from the burden of pain and anger. Otherwise, they continue to nibble on and rattle our soul.

It is easier for us to forgive those human weaknesses that we see in ourselves: blindness, narcissism, vanity and insensitivity.

Then there are things that are almost unforgivable.

It is so hard to forgive where there is no show of remorse.

It is so hard to reconcile when the truth is not spoken.

It is impossible to let go of what still torments and damages.

There are still unsettled scores, both personal and political.  Forgiveness and reconciliation are still waiting for truths to reveal their faces. Only then can the healing begin.

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.Longing

Mad Cat Max was a simple little fabric doll, a sort of hybrid of a cat and a Panda bear. I won it at a street fair in a far and magical city in Brazil in the summer of 1986. I kept it for many years. It was a source of pride; the guy at the booth handed it to me while trying to hide his astonishment. I often wondered how I managed to bring down the pile of tin cans with shaky hands, eyes out of focus and a rag ball shot out of a toy cannon.

Mad Cat Max got his name and personality a few years later when I presented him to my first-born son, Daniel. He had a thick Argentinian accent, a quick temper, no manners whatsoever and a huge heart of gold. He knew how to make my son smile and laugh and they shared long intimate conversations. Mad Cat Max was what every child needs; a half-imaginary friend or simply a hilarious, crazy, footloose and more effective version of a mother.

I was reminded of Mad Cat Max this morning when my youngest daughter and I walked to school with our dogs, imagining a conversation between them about us. Then she went to class and I returned to my adult tasks, but I could not shake the notion of how important it is to imagine that dogs can talk and make fun of the funny human creatures they live with. I thought of Mad Cat Max who was really my alter ego.

I kept Mad Cat Max for almost 30 years and then I lost him. I still miss him sometimes.

May the year 5777 be good to you. May we create goodness in the world together, as much as we possibly can.

shanatova

Illustration by Daniel Gouri De Lima

Passover: a Journey Through Tradition and Change

Passover always brings with it memories of smells and tastes and sights and sounds.

The smell of cooking and cleaning.

The taste of the gefilte fish that Grandmother Luba, may she rest in peace, used to make, that we will never taste again.

The sight of the shiny patent-leather shoes that I wasn’t allowed to wear until the night of the Seder.

The sounds of the reading of the Hagada, the songs, the family jokes that we tell year after year.

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Memories….

The imperative, “and you shall tell it to your son” takes on a new meaning, as Daniel, my first born, sits on my knees for his first Seder, nine months old, smiling and enchanting.

My private exodus from Egypt, several years later, with a small suitcase and a shattered heart.

The first time that I took Na’ama, my daughter, to buy shoes for the holiday, so that she could stand tall and proud on a chair as she recited the four questions.

And the questions that repeat, year after year.  Why are women absent from the Hagada, and why are the answers to “How is this night different” always the same.  And what should I tell my son and daughter – what have I done to make a difference since last Passover?

And so, I wish everyone a happy holiday.  May this be a good holiday, celebrated with loved ones, and may you lack for nothing.  And, this holiday, as we sit around the table, we will ask, “How is this night different,” but we won’t be satisfied with the same answers.  Because there are many who are still waiting for an exodus from their own personal Egypt.  Because slavery has not been banished from the universe and freedom has not been distributed evenly to all.

May we be part of those who make a difference.

breakfree

حول الحكمة وإحساس المراعاة

حول الحكمة وإحساس المراعاة

ربّما وُلدتُ امرأة، وربّما، كما تقول سيمون دي بيفوار،  أصبحت امرأة. سواء أكان هذا ما حصل أم ذاك، فإنّ كَوْني امرأة يشكّل مركّبًا مركزيًّا للغاية في الفسيفساء التي تَنْبَني منها هُويّتي الشخصيّة وهُويّتي الفرديّة. إنّها العدسة التي أتأمّل نفسي والعالم من خلالها.

الكتابة حول الهُويّة النسائيّة في عصر ما بعد الحداثة قد تكون “دَقّة قديمة”، أو عملًا انتهت صلاحيته، وبخاصّة بعد أن قامت جوديت باتلير بزعزعة عالَمنا بفكرتها القائلة إنّ الهُويّة الجندريّة هي ضرب من الإنشاء الاجتماعيّ، ونوع من التمظهر، أكثر من كونها أمرًا “طبيعيًّا”. حقًّا، هذا صحيح؛ ففي الخطابات النسويّة يبدو أنّ الانشغال بالهُويّة النسائيّة يقف على حافة منزلق أملس يُفضي صوب الماهِيَويّة (الجوهرانيّة)، وصوب إنشاءات اجتماعيّة، وتنميطات رجوليّة ونسائيّة نسعى نحن النساء للابتعاد عنها.

لكن في معمعان هذه المنزلقات الملساء، أتلمس لنفسي حقّ تعريف هُويّتي كامرأة في الفضاءات المختلفة التي أتحرّك وأعمل فيها.

هُويّتي كامرأة قِوامها شذرات من التاريخ النسائيّ المتواصل؛ سلالة متواصلة من الساحرات والحكواتيّات، والمزارِعات والمطبِّبات، والنساء الكاتبات والمفكِّرات، والطاهيات والمغنّيات، والنساء اللواتي يحملن القلم، نساء يُدْنين طفلًا نائمًا إلى حضنهنّ، وأخريات يحاربن ويكافحن في سبيل مستقبل أفضل. قِوامها كذلك جدّتاي المرحومتان، وأمّي (أطال الله عمرها)، وأخواتي بالولادة وأخواتي اللواتي أدنيتُهنّ إليّ عبْر السنين. تتغذّى هُويّتي وتنمو من اللقاء اليوميّ مع أحبّائي. وقِوام هُويّتي كذلك نساء لم ألتقِ بهنّ قَطّ، أو قابلتهنّ من على صفحات الكتب، وفي الصور والحكايات. قِوامها نساء من لحم ودم وأخريات من الأساطير.

وفي الأشهر الأخيرة تبيّن لي أنّ هُويّتي “ترضع” كذلك من نساء ليبيريا البطلات الباسلات.

قبل عامين، تعرّفت للمرّة الأولى على شريط مصوّر يوثّق نضال نساء ليبيريا المسلمات والمسيحيّات من أجل إحلال السلام ووقف الحرب الأهليّة الدمويّة في بلادهنّ.  فيلم   Pray the Devil Back to Hellيشكّل جزءًا من سلسلة أفلام وثائقيّة حول النساء كصانعات سلام في أرجاء العالم، في صراعات دمويّة ومرّة.

وفّر لي نشاطي في حركة “نساء يصنعن السلام” فرصةَ مشاهدة هذا الفيلم مرّة تلو المرّة في العروض التي تقيمها الحركة في أنحاء البلاد. أكتشف فيه مواطئ قدم جديدة وتنحفر هذه الجملة أو تلك في ذاكرتي، وتقضّ صورةٌ من الصور مضجعي. لكن في كلّ مرة أشاهده، يتعزّز إيماني بالروح الإنسانيّة التي تحمل معها قدرة هائلة على الرأفة، والحكمة الفائقة، والاصطبار النفسيّ حيال القسوة التي لا توصف.

بعد كلّ عرض للفيلم، نُجري نقاشًا ومحادثة مع الجمهور. كل ّمحادثة  تحمل خصوصيّة وتتباين عن غيرها، وفي كلّ مرّة تطفو على السطح أفكار  ومدركات جديدة.

عدت قبل عدّة أسابيع من عرض في الملجأ الصغير والدافئ التابع لمسرح “ماشو- ماشو” للتغيير الاجتماعيّ. كانت تلك ليلة مقدسيّة باردة، فوجدتُني والمشاعر تطغى عليّ أشرع بالكتابة عن المعرفة، النسائيّة منها.

وجدتُني ألهو بتفكيك وإعادة تركيب أمور متضادّة اعتدنا على تقبُّل “صحّتها”: الرجولة مقابل الأنوثة؛ العقل مقابل الوجدان؛ العقلانيّة مقابل الممارسة الاندفاعيّة؛ الحراك مقابل الحياد؛ القوّة الجسميّة مقابل الطراوة والنعومة. لهوت كما تعلّمت بشقّ الأنفس من جاك دريدا الذي كان يتناول أزواج كلمات ويفكّكها إلى حين تصبح هذه الكلمة تلك، وتصبح تلك هذه.

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غنّت نساء ليبيريا وبكَيْن، ورقصن وتعانقن  وصولًا إلى اتّفاقيّة السلام وتأسيس حكومة منتخَبة في انتخابات حرّة ونزيهة وديمقراطيّة. وقفن تحت الشمس الحارقة والأمطار الغزيرة، ولم يبرحن مواقعهنّ. عملن في صفوف الأولاد الجنود على نزع السلاح، وقمن بعمل مجتمعيّ وسياسيّ يشكّل مصدرَ إلهام للجميع. وفي اللحظات الحرجة، قمن بتوظيف الخوف من اللعنات…

كشفت نساء ليبيريا بحكمة ورباطة جأش عن بؤس القسوة، وعن حدود القوّة الجائرة والغاصبة والناهبة. فضحن الطمع والنهب والجشع والطمع وشهوة التسلّط التي اختبأت من وراء خطابات قادة الميليشيات المتصارعة. حاربن في سبيل إعادة الطفولة إلى أولاد وبنات ليبيريا، الطفولة التي حُرموا وحُرمن منها.

نساء ليبيريا وضّحن لي معرفة فائقة الأهمّيّة: المشاعر مَعْرفة. القدرة على التنازل والقبول بحلول وسط من أجل المصلحة العامّة هي ضرب من المَعْرفة. القدرة على وضع الاختلافات والفروق جانبًا هي ضرب من المَعْرفة. القدرة على قيادة مجتمعات محلّيّة جريحة وممزّقة ونازفة في طريق طويل ومتعرّج نحو الشفاء هي ضرب من المعرفة. قدرة العفو عمّن ارتكبوا جرائم فظيعة ضدّ الإنسانيّة هي تاج المَعْرفة. القدرة على توظيف المعتقَد الدينيّ لصالح إحلال السلام هي كذلك ضرب من المَعْرفة.

المعرفة قوّة. القوّة قد تكون ناعمة ومرنة واحتوائيّة ومدرِكة لحدودها، وقد تكون أمرًا نختار تَقاسُمَه، بغية تعزيزه.

على خطاب الأمن والحرب وإمكانيّة إحلال السلام أن يضمّ هذه المعرفة بين ثناياه. الأمن ليس حكرًا على الرجال أو المقاتلين. العكس هو الصحيح. جميعنا نملك معارف حول الأمن؛ وكذلك حول الأمن الشخصيّ، والبدنيّ، والاقتصاديّ، والجندريّ، والاجتماعيّ، والثقافيّ.

على الخطاب الذي يسعى لإحلال السلام أن يتضمّن جميع أنواع المعرفة المذكورة.

أشعر بالامتنان العميق لجميع النساء اللواتي علّمنني هذه الدروس.

وأدعوكم/نّ لمشاهدة الفيلم

رابط لموقع الفيلم: http://www.forkfilms.net/pray-the-devil-back-to-hell/

زوروا صفحة نساء يصنعن السلام على موقع فيسبوك، للاطّلاع على قائمة عروض الفيلم في أرجاء البلاد

 

Women’s Knowledge

Women’s Knowledge

Perhaps I was born a woman; perhaps, as in the words of Simone de Beauvoir, I have become a woman.  In any event, being a woman is a very central part of the montage of my personal and political identities.  Womanhood is the lens through which I view myself and the world.

It may be anachronistic to write about my identity as a woman in this post-modern era – especially ever since Judith Butler disrupted our universe with her concepts of gender identity as social construction, a form of performance, rather than something that is “natural.” Indeed, it seems that in feminist discourse, identity is always perched at the top of a slippery slope, tipping towards essentialism, social construction, and the very stereotypes that we seek to escape.

Yet along these slippery slopes and within the different spaces in which I move, I demand the right to actively define my own identity as a woman.

My identity as a woman is made up of pieces of women’s continuous history; it is composed of an ongoing dynasty of witches and story-tellers; farmers, cultivators and healers, women writers and scholars; women who cook and sing; women who have held a sleeping child close to their breasts. My identity is made up of my grandmothers, may their memories be a blessing, and my mother, may she be blessed with a long life; the sisters in my own family and the sisters I have drawn in close to me through the years. It is nurtured by and develops from my daily interactions with those whom my heart loves above all.  It is made up of women I have never met and those I have met in the pages of books, pictures, and stories.  It is made up of real-life women and mythological figures.

And over the past few months, I have come to realize that my identity also draws from the courage of brave Liberian women.

About two years ago, I first encountered the film that documents the struggle of Liberian women, Muslim and Christian, to bring peace and put an end to their country’s cruel, bloody civil war.  The film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, is one in a series of documentary films about women throughout the world who have brought a peaceful conclusion to bitter, brutal conflicts.

Activism in the “Women Wage Peace” movement has brought me the opportunity to see the film again and again in screenings throughout the country.  Each time I see the movie, I see another detail; another sentence engraved into my memory; another scene troubles my sleep. Yet each viewing also restores my belief in the human spirit and its capacity for great compassion, deep wisdom and emotional resilience in the face of unutterable cruelty.

After each screening, we conduct a discussion with the audience.  Each discussion is different and special, and each one brings new insights and different understandings.

On a cold Jerusalem night several weeks ago, I returned home from a screening that had taken place in the small, cozy shelter of the Mashu Mashu Theater for Social Change.  Moved by my experiences, I sat down to write.  About knowledge.  Women’s knowledge.

I found myself playing with the deconstruction and reconstruction of the binary oppositions that we have learned to accept as “proper”:  masculinity as the opposite of femininity; intellect as contrasted with emotion; rationality as compared to impulsivity; activism versus passivity; physical power as different than gentleness.  I played with the words, as I have learned to do, with great effort, from Jacques Derrida, who would deconstruct binary oppositions until the terms melded into each other.

The women of Liberia sang and cried, danced and embraced all the way to a peace agreement and the establishment of a democratically-elected government.  They stood in the scorching sun and in the rain; they sat and refused to budge; behind the scenes they mediated between the antagonists when they thought that these efforts weren’t enough. They worked with the children-soldiers to bring about disarmament and acted as inspirational political community workers. And at key moments, they knew how to enlist the terror of the curse…

Patiently, with great wisdom, the women of Liberia showed just how pathetic cruelty is and exposed the limits of thieving, raping, plundering power. They revealed the greed, avarice and lust for power and control that were behind the fighting groups’ rhetoric.  They fought to bring back to the sons and daughters of Liberia the childhood that had been stolen from them.

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For me, the women of Liberia distilled the essence of a very important insight:  Emotion is a form of knowledge.  The ability to yield and to compromise for the greater good is a form of knowledge.  The capacity to put differences and arguments aside is a form of knowledge.  The skill required leading a wounded, torn; bleeding community over the long, winding road towards healing is a form of knowledge.  The ability to forgive those who have committed the most heinous crimes against humanity is a form of sublime knowledge.  The ability to enlist religious beliefs in the service of peacemaking is a form of knowledge.

And knowledge is power.  Power can be gentle, flexible, all-encompassing, and aware of its own limits.  Power can be something that we choose to share, thus making it even stronger.

The discourse about security, war and the possibility of peace must include this knowledge.  Security is not the province of men or warriors alone.  In fact, the very opposite is true:  Each and every one of us possesses knowledge about security – personal, physical, economic, gendered, social and cultural.

A discourse that seeks to make peace must encompass all of these forms of knowledge

I feel very grateful to all the women in my life who have taught me these lessons.

And I invite you all to see the film.

Follow this link to the film’s website: http://www.forkfilms.net/pray-the-devil-back-to-hell/

For a list of screenings throughout Israel, please visit the “Women Wage Peace” facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/WomenWagePeace/events

Or visit our website at:

http://womenwagepeace.org.il/category/%D7%90%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A2%D7%99%D7%9D/%D7%90%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%A2%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%A7%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%91%D7%99%D7%9D/

English translation: Etta Prince Gibson

 

The Importance of Being Hopeful: Women Wage Peace

The importance of being hopeful

A year has passed since the terrible war of last summer, and we were beginning to hope that this summer – aside from the infernal heat – would be more peaceful. But then came the stabbing hate crime at the Jerusalem Pride Parade and the murder of 16 year old Shira Banki, and the terror attack on the home of the Dawabshe family in the village of Duma near Nablus, which has taken the lives of 18 months old Ali Dawabshe, and of his father Sa’ed. The vicious circle of hate and terror and revenge continues, demanding its pound of flesh, there is no respite, and compassion still conceals its face.

Shortly after the horrendous hate crimes, come the wave of condemnations – the genuine ones, as well as those paying lip service – as well as grief and indignation, and the urge to meet and dialogue. And of course there are the politicians who insist on arguing for moral superiority in the face of atrocity, in this aching and bleeding region, which years for a little less of that, and a little more compassion and a little integrity.

But within a few days, public life resume their course, and the grieving families are left alone with the loss; left alone to pick up the pieces of life shattered by hatred.  Daily routine settles in, and the plethora of Neshama candles of condolences from strangers gradually disappear. The Israeli Hebrew press is more interested in the Obama-Netanyahu feud and their battle of the hearts and support of Jewish Institutional leaders, then in those who insist on creating islands of sanity, of human encounters, of listening, of mutual respect.

It is scary to see how quickly the dust of everyday life covers the fresh wounds.

נרות נשמה

That is why I keep going back to the “Protective Fast” tent in Jerusalem, camped across from the Prime Minister’s residence. This campaign of 50 days of fast, marking the 50 days of Protective Edge War, was initiated by Women Wage Peace, a movement I joined since its inception as a member of its steering committee. I keep going back to the tent because there I find the compassion, the human capacity to forgive and fight hatred; I find the ability to have a conversation without storming out, to sing together songs of peace and hope without a shred of cynicism and with great intent.

I am 52 years old, not a girl anymore; I have a very healthy sense of humor, a capacity for sarcasm, and just the right amount of harmless nastiness. And of course, I know that a group of women huddled together and chanting will not bring peace, not on our own, anyway. But, this is a beginning, and it is a persistent and inspiring resistance to despair, to indifference, to inaction, to denial. And as Margaret Mead said, this is the only thing that ever made a difference in this world.

People call us names; naïve, stupid, pathetic, menopausal and deprived of sexual satisfaction. All has been said about women determined to wage peace and then some. But I am 52 and I really don’t mind being called pathetic, naïve, touchy-feely or sticky, oh, and I have earned my approaching menopause fair and square. But as a mother, I wish for a better life for my children, for all children. As I woman, I know that indifference is not more sophisticated than compassion, despair is not wiser than hope, and cynicism doesn’t know anything that faith in the human capacity to heal doesn’t.

In addition, people tell us to go to Ghaza and to Ramallah; they tell us we are barking up the wrong tree. “We” want peace; it is “them” who do not want it. This is a valid argument that merits an honest answer. What I have learned through life, and through our conversations with Jewish and Palestinian women and men who came to tent to support us, to have an open conversation, is not a new thing, but it is important nevertheless. What I have learned is that most people on both sides want to reach a political agreement that will end the violent conflict. There are inspiring people on both sides who suffered terrible losses and grief, yet have found a way to forgive, to reach out and seek like-minded partners.  And on both sides there are those who benefit from the status-quo, from the political power they draw from the standstill in the negotiations and the escalation in violence. There is fear and distrust on both sides; real fear, justified fear, anchored in an impossible reality of violence and revenge.

In addition, there is criticism from the left, as well. Mostly because we attempt to create a movement that reaches out to women from the center and the right (well, soft right); because we strive to be political, but not another anti-occupation movement. Our critics ask: “How can you be political and no talk about the occupation?”. Personally, I agree. I want to talk about the occupation; I want a lively public discourse about the occupation. Yet, I have never demanded nor made my membership in the movement conditional, and I agree that avoiding the issue of the occupation and avoiding laying blame on Israel (or Palestine for that matter) was a wise strategic choice. Women like me, who oppose the occupation, have space where we can be active and vocal. In Women Wage Peace we seek to create a more pluralistic and inclusive space, for women who may not be comfortable with anti-occupation discourse, but who still believe that the only way to achieve sustainable peace is through a mutual and respectful process of negotiations that will lead to a lasting agreement. These women – with whom I may disagree on a host of political issues – are my allies and partners.

It does not mean I am always comfortable with this type of discourse, but them stepping outside of our comfort zone rarely feels comfortable… Nevertheless, being part of a movement means I embrace the fact that it does not represent me 100% all the time. However, I can represent me; I have my own voice, and the capacity and privilege to make my voice heard. Being part of a movement means to discover the benefit – as well as the discomfort – in listening to a woman holding a view different from my own.  Being part of a movement is to understand that the only thing that has ever made a difference in this world are shared actions of people with a shared vision. Being part of a movement is to listen to the woman next to me, recognize that her words are different from mine, and appreciate that the power of movement is in its diversity.

DAVID BROZA“Good will come some day”. Musician and singer David Broza at the Protective Fast Tent.

They say “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”; in the Protective Fast tent, in our movement, I find beauty and compassion that give me the strength to keep waging peace.

Dedicated to the memory of:

Ali and Sa’ed Dawabshe, son and father

Shira Banki

Victims of hate crimes and terror. May their memory, their lives and loves be a blessing.

From Memory to Hope

As a Jewish-Israeli, woman, Memorial Day has always been a most significant day for me. In 1967, when I was 5, I lost my beloved cousin Nimrod in the Six Day War; and ever since, it has always been a day of profound and contained personal pain. As a feminist and human rights and peace activist, I search for the unheard voices of women; I search for words of solace and compassion.
So when the Rabbi of our small Reform Congregation in Kiryat Yovel in Jerusalem asked me to participate in a Havdalah ceremony, marking the transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day, I felt honored. I knew I would want to write words of solace and compassion, and that I would look for inspiration in the words of wise women, near and far.
Here is what I wrote for the Havdalah ceremony that will take place tonight, at First Station in Jerusalem.

Pain, Memory and Hope
“The soul doesn’t have set holidays,” my grandmother, Gila Gouri of blessed memory, used to say.
Such a short sentence, merely six words, yet in that sentence my grandmother revealed her deepest wisdom and understanding of the human soul: – Our souls do not observe the calendar.
My grandmother’s saying takes on particular significance as we transition from Memorial Day to Independence Day – from the memory of those who fell in battle and conflict to the joyful celebrations of our independence and sovereignty. The transition is difficult, because our souls keep to their own rhythm, and they cannot feel pain or joy according to the cycle of the sun as it rises and sets.

EMILY DEmily Dickenson

“After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” wrote Emily Dickenson in her wonderful poem about the paralyzing, freezing sense of pain that breaks our hearts. This is the pain of loss, the pain we feel when someone dearest of all is no more; the sorrow of the longing that can never end. Perhaps, today, those who have lost their dearest ones feel that pain more sharply. Today, we are called upon to remember not only those who have gone, but also those who carry the pain and memory in their hearts every day and each moment. At this moment of Havdalah, of Transition, we are called upon to recognize that among us are many for whom the memory – whether it is fresh or a memory that they have carried for years – persists and goes on even after the ceremony ends and as the vivid fireworks light up the skies.
And Grandmother Gila also used to say, “We live as long as the living remembers us.” Memory is our way to keep those who have gone among us, to carry them with us. Memory sharpens the pain of loss, but at the same time, it keeps alive the love that we felt towards those who have fallen, maintaining it as a living, breathing emotion.
This moment marks the transition from memory to hope, from pain and loss to the excitement of celebration. The human heart is the strongest of all our muscles. Pain paralyzes and freezes the heart, until it feels that it will break. Joy, love and hope expand our hearts beyond all limits. At this moment of Havdalah, we ask our souls to contract into the pain of memory and to expand into love and hope; at this moment of Havdalah, we call on our hearts to contain both that that brings us pain and that that brings us joy. The heart can do this, we can do this, and this moment of Havdalah is intended to enable us all, as a community, to perform this complicated transition together.
At this moment of transition from holy to holy, we remember those who have died and we commit ourselves before them to do all that is in our power to create life filled with hope and peace and lives filled with compassion.

English translation by Etta Prince-Gibson