On Friday morning, the morning of Lag Ba’Omer, I gathered with approximately 20 others on Zoom for the JCC-sponsored meditation group. The group has met online every weekday @ 9am, since late-March 2020, lovingly held and taught by Lori and Monte Dube, alongside of many clergy from our Boulder and Denver Jewish community, myself included.
Last Friday, it was Morah Yehudis’ turn to offer a short kavanna about the joyful holiday of Lag Ba’Omer – only she was heart-broken, as she shared the news of the many people who had died in a tragedy in Meron, Israel. I watched her reach deep within herself for the energy center of ‘Hod’ – which allows us to embrace all that is and invites us to practice surrendering to the unfolding moment. She centered herself – and then helped us to center ourselves – in compassion, as we met the beauty of a Boulder spring day alongside the devastating news of the loss of 45 lives, 150 injured, from that holy place, that Makom. Then she invited us to sit in silent mediation for 18 life-affirming minutes.
As we brought our time together to a close, we recited the Mourner’s Kaddish – as we do every day. Many of us had, in fact, found our way to this group in need of a reliable daily minyan, a place where we could show up as mourner’s and recite: “Yitgadal v’yitkadash sh’mey raba…” (Let God’s Name be great and holy.) Now we were reaching across the world to embrace the newest mourners of Zion, the families of those who died in the stampede on Lag Ba’Omer, reaching across our Zoom boxes to beam love at one another as we allowed the community to wash over us and bring us comfort.
The following morning, I gathered with approximately 20 others in the sanctuary of Congregation Nevei Kodesh, to co-lead Shabbat morning services and to honor our amazing “Crossing the River” (CTR) students, who have worked so hard to prepare for their upcoming B’nai Mitzvah. As we listened in to the reverberations of “Hiney Mah Tov,” my co-leader, Ari, noted with a broad smile (under his mask, but visible in his eyes) that our gathering of 20 was the greatest number of voices he had sung with in 14 months. We were all a little giddy. How good – how truly awesome! – to be in community, to see one another in 3D again (and wave to those of our community on Zoom) after all these many months of isolation, and to celebrate connection. 90 life-affirming minutes of song, and praise, and joy.
We live with the paradox that some of us have survived, even thrived, these past many months, while others have not. We mourn the many deaths, relatives and members of our community, deaths from Covid-19, from the mass shootings – not just in Boulder, but across this country – and the most recent devastating tragedy on Mount Meron. We gather in community to rejoice and to mourn, to hold each other up.
Today, is the 36th day of the Omer: double chai (18 x 2) – a day of ‘Lovingkindness of Bonding and Connection,’ Chesed sh’b’Yesod. Our beloved Rebbe Zalman used to remind us that we are all part of K’lal Yisrael. When one of us is suffering, it affects us all; when one of us is uplifted in song, it, too, can lift us up. He also insisted, as a student of his recently reminded me, that we never forget Rabbi Hillel’s injunction: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Hiney Mah Tov – how good it is to be in community! To sit with one another, in community, in joy-filled moments and heart-breaking ones. May we continue to strive to bring our best selves to our Makom and to co-create together – this Shavuot and beyond – the places we yearn to inhabit.