Dear CBI Community,

On Saturday night we opened Simchat Torah with a heartfelt prayer for peace (which you can reread now at Ritualwell). And then, holding fast to our Torah and our traditions, we sang as we danced the Torah around the room. It was poignant to dance with the Torah singing ancient words of hope and resilience at a time like this. I have the feeling we will need all of the hope and resilience we can muster as this war continues.

I know that many of us are feeling helpless. My friend and colleague Rabbi Jay Michaelson notes that “The hopelessness feeds [the extremists’] narrative that there can be no peace.” I invite us therefore to resist hopelessness as best we can. There are things we can do to make things better. They may feel small, but they are real.

  • We’ll talk about what’s happening in an age-appropriate way during Tefilah Time during Jewish Journeys (formerly known as Hebrew School) later today.
Community Vigil for Israel: Solidarity Through Prayer and Song. Wednesday, October 11, 5pm, Park Square, Pittsfield.
  • Tomorrow (Wednesday, October 11) afternoon at 5pm there will be a Community Vigil for Israel Through Prayer, Song, and Prose at Park Square in Pittsfield, organized by Jewish Federation of the Berkshires. Jewish Federation has also established a fund for tzedakah / donations of support and care.
  • On Friday night, we’ll gather at CBI at 7pm for Kabbalat Shabbat services. There’s no knowing what will be happening in this war by then, but the suffering we’ve seen so far this week will still be raw and real. There is strength in coming together in community at times like these, and we need each others’ presence now more than ever.
  • We will continue to offer prayers for hope, strength, healing, and peace at services now and for the foreseeable future. Some of these prayers will be ancient; some will date to previous conflicts; some will be brand-new, written now for what’s unfolding now.
  • In general, we can support the people we know who live there, person to person and heart to heart. Many of us have family and friends there. A simple outreach – an email, a text, a WhatsApp message – can go a long way.
  • We can support each other. Many of us are reeling. This is a good time to give each other (and ourselves) the benefit of the doubt and to be extra kind to each other. We never know what another person is carrying, but right now we can safely assume that most people with a relationship to that holy land are grieving.
I want to encourage us to be especially thoughtful about our media and social media consumption at this time. Those of us who are news junkies may feel tempted to reload our trusted news sources often to see if something new has happened. (I count myself among that number.) Even so, it’s wise to remember that our constant news attention does not help anyone, and that the constancy of traumatic news can harm us.

Those who are active on social media may choose to post about this, and/or amplify the voices of people we trust who are there, or publications we trust that are saying things we find wise or relevant. At the same time, those of us who are active on social media may find ourselves thrown to see someone we thought we knew posting or amplifying something we find hateful or hurtful. If you need to log off or click away, do.

Please take care of yourself. Think twice before viewing video footage that you will not be able to unsee. (This goes double for our teens who have never “watched” trauma like this online before.) In the words of Israeli psychologist Uri Schechter, “The videos and testimonies we are currently exposed to are greater than our souls can contain.” Refrain from doom-scrolling, or at least take breaks from it. Give yourself permission to grieve.

And if something happens in your life that is sweet, give yourself permission to enjoy it. We are not disloyal to our loved ones there if we allow ourselves to savor a cup of coffee, a sunrise, a child’s orchestra performance or sports game, or a moment of genuine rest on Shabbat. Enjoying what we can will help to strengthen us for the work of rebuilding that I hope and pray will lie ahead, when fragile peace is possible again.

I am here if you need to talk about this or anything else. Drop me an email and we’ll find a time to connect.

Blessings to all,

— Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
[email protected]