Menachem Creditor

Intense Lessons from the Nova Exhibition: Learning to Dance Again (Kedoshim)

"We Will Dance Again", The Nova Music Festival Exhibition (NYC), photo: Menachem Creditor
"We Will Dance Again", The Nova Music Festival Exhibition (NYC), photo: Menachem Creditor

From the rich tapestry of Torah to the depths of the human experience, from the ever-present energy in the air to the constant buzz of news cycles, life can a dizzying mosaic of interconnectedness. And yet, even amidst this intense web, there are moments that demand pause and reflection, that stop us in our tracks and pierce us with sudden and undeniable intensity.

I share here a recent experience that left a mark on my soul. It was a visit with 80 staff members of UJA-Federation of New York, where I am blessed to serve as scholar-in-residence, to an exhibit currently in downtown New York City featuring artifacts from the October 7th attack at the Nova festival in Israel. The magnitude of the curator’s curation, the poignant display of human resilience amidst tragedy, stirred something deep within me. In the presence of burnt-out cars and remnants of a once-vibrant festival, I was confronted with the fragility of life and the enduring spirit of hope.

In the midst of this solemn reflection, I had the privilege of speaking with Yarin Ilovich, the DJ who was playing at the festival right when the Hamas attack began. His gorgeous spirit, his spiritual commitment to art as a vehicle for healing, his focus on bringing light even and especially after such darkness, left an indelible impression on me. It was a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, a reminder that even in the darkest of times, there exists a flicker of light waiting to be kindled, that dancing again, that joy, that love can and does endure.

We also heard testimony from Moran Stella Yanai of her experiences of being kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, 2023 and taken hostage. She was released after 54 days of brutality in captivity. Her commitment to sharing her story was heroic and terrifying, literally stunning. She commanded us with the power of her sheer life-force, by her presence, to be witness. “Intense” does not begin to name what she has been through, nor does it adequately describe her unwavering commitment to everything in her power to do everything in her power to bring back those hostages still in captivity.

As we navigate these tumultuous times, I’m reminded of the Torah’s injunction in this week’s Parasha Kedoshim to “be holy (Kadosh), for I the Lord your God am Holy (Kadosh). (Lev. 19:2)” In this seemingly abstract directive (what does “holy” actually mean?) lies a profound truth, as understood through the prism of rabbinic interpretation: holiness is not an abstract concept but a call to action, a summons to embody the Divine in everyday life. Through acts of kindness, compassion, and solidarity, we become vessels for the sacred, conduits for healing and transformation.

In the wake of tragedy, we are called upon to bear witness, to honor the memories of those we’ve lost, and to ensure that their stories live on. This sacred promise binds us together as a community and reminds us that our individual lifetimes are truly only fragments of the interwoven lifetimes of our community, our family, our People. All people deserves nothing less than freedom and life.

In a Shabbos talk decades ago I’ll never forget, I heard the great Rabbi Yitz Greenberg define “kadosh” as “intense” — a reminder that life, with all its dense complexities and intense challenges, is a profound gift to be cherished and embraced. We are called to embrace each moment with equally intense fervor and equally intense purpose, knowing that in our collective energy lies the promise of more light tomorrow.

As we gather to support the survivors of October 7th, to serve as witness and voice for those who were murdered while dancing in celebration of life itself, to amplify the calls of the survivors for the release of the hostages, let us also reaffirm our commitment to building a world where love triumphs over hate, where light overcomes darkness. That lofty dream, that dream of a universal love has felt woefully out of reach (and perhaps hopelessly naive), I learned from Yaniv’s intensely beautiful soul what it is to still envision a world beyond the brutality and evil that occurred on October 7, to still imagine and work to actualize light and healing tent, to build a better world.

We must both bear testimony and double down on hope, on light, on healing. We must be witnesses and agents of change, living reminders of the cataclysmic tragedy of October 7 and catalysts for transformation, as we work together towards a future that learns from the horrors of the past and works to surpasses today’s pain with something more worthy and just.

May we be strong enough to make this story heard.

May we be intensely loving people.

May we be brave and beautiful enough to dance again.


About the Author
Rabbi Menachem Creditor serves as the Pearl and Ira Meyer Scholar in Residence at UJA-Federation New York and was the founder of Rabbis Against Gun Violence. An acclaimed author, scholar, and speaker with over 2 million views of his online videos and essays, he was named by Newsweek as one of the fifty most influential rabbis in America. His 31 books and 6 albums of original music include "A Year of Torah," the global anthem "Olam Chesed Yibaneh" and the COVID-era 2-volume anthology "When We Turned Within." He and his wife Neshama Carlebach live in New York, where they are raising their five children.
Related Topics
Related Posts