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A Meditation on Words and Presence After October 7

Surviving the Storm

Rabbi K’vod Wieder

February 2024

I found my heart again. Loving awareness hiding in the shelter..

I had been away, weathering the storm

Great gusts of words shaking trees, scattering leaves, blowing roofs of houses

Menacing, threatening words of hate – words pulled up from their roots in honest soil

To be whipped around in a frenzy – the chaos of roads closed, houses on hillsides sinking down into the sea – people running this way and that.

Some of the words that pound like rain on the roof are from those who want so hard to be good. They offer up their words to the altar of validation – without looking, seeing or listening. They pound long enough and the roof starts leaking, the holes growing bigger until our houses collapse.

And come of the words scream and screech in the night cracking trees in two, falling on roads and buildings. These are the words who want to put our people down, the words that want the storm to wash the Jews away – to get rid of the smog that some imagine hangs in the air

I’ve been torn by how to weather this storm.

Do I use words to try to shore up houses, put sandbags on hillsides, clear the roads of obstacles?

Do I try to re-plant the words in the soil of truth – reconnect them their meaning, reconnect words like Zionism to its life giving hopes and dreams to contribute to a better world?

To reconnect words like “genocide” to the evil that believes that part of humanity does not have a right to exist because they are not fully human?

Will people notice the trees I’m trying to plant? Will they acknowledge the decay of a word that has been torn from its root?

But on this glorious morning – the sun peeking through the clouds illuminating the tiniest silver pearls on the tree branches – ten different birds singing the song of creation – on this glorious morning  – a few hour respite from the  rain that will pound again this afternoon, I found my heart.

I found the loving awareness that says Yes to this creation

To the diversity of all this earth’s creatures and to the entire plethora of human experience, stories, lives.

I found my heart, soft and pulpy, infinitely tender, that bleeds and breaks with the suffering of my brother, my sister, the heart that doesn’t qualify, that doesn’t check ID, doesn’t determine if it’s safe to cross the border.

It’s the heart that smiles as it cries and bleeds because it knows it is made of the Holy One, the Only One.

It’s this heart who knows that no words, no labels, can approach the grief and loss, the beauty and exultation, the depth and sacred quality of your experience and mine.

It’s this heart who trusts that I can sit in silence before you, and let your words pour out, like rain, like rivers and streams, like waterfalls until you feel seen and heard and known.

It’s this heart that knows that only when you feel that you are not alone in your pain and your fear, your hope and your dream, that you know that I am with you, is the deeper truth affirmed.

Deeper than the words is the silence of our presence together.

Deeper than words is the silence of a caring heart who radiates like the sun peeking through the clouds bathing us in a warmth that sings a new song and heralds a new day.

We still have so much work to do, so much to be witnessed, so much to be understood, so many tears, so much laughter, so many bold new worlds to be brought into being.

But if we can take each other’s hands, splash through puddles with the sun on our backs and catch a glimpse of our reflections together in the water, we increase the chance that you may also receive me, and we may remarkably create surprising new words.

Words that weave worlds of home and hearth, words that build community centers of multigenerational play and conversation, words that lift up diverse voices, words that create safety and security for all, words that encourage a humble human place in our earthly ecosystem, words that reflect the Holy One, the Only One.

About the Author
Rabbi K’vod Wieder received his BA in psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 1993 and his MA in Transpersonal Psychology (counseling) from the Sofia University (then Institute of Transpersonal Psychology) in 1996. He received an MA in Jewish Studies from the American Jewish University and was ordained at the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in 2012. He is a member of both the Central Conference for American Rabbis (Reform) and the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative). For the last 26 years, K’vod has been teaching classes, leading retreats, and counseling students in meditation, prayer, and creative forms of Jewish spirituality in the United States. He has served as the assistant director of Chochmat HaLev – a Jewish meditation center in Berkeley, program director for Sonoma County Jewish Federation, director of the B’nai Tzedek Teen Philanthropy Program for the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, program director for Elat Chayyim Center of Jewish Spirituality, and trained and interned with Jewish Funds For Justice and One L.A. in the area of congregation-based community organizing. In 2001, K’vod created and implemented the first county-wide post-bnai mitzvah program in Sonoma County, and won the Etz Chayyim award for Informal Jewish education at the National Conference for Informal Jewish Education in 2005. K’vod is a rabbi for Temple Beth El of South Orange County.
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