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Michal Kohane

Mishe….

Mishe….

Last week, for international women’s day and the upcoming month of Adar, my school decided to hold a “fun evening” for the women on staff: “come in a good mood”! said the colorful, trying to be cheery, invitation, “there’s will be food, games, karaoke and dancing! Everyone is expected!”

‘You got to be kiddin’ me’, was all I could think, and with my son back in his reserve unit for yet another round in Gaza, I thought a somber zoom meeting is the most social thing I can do, but then, the zoom got rescheduled, and I found myself staying longer at school with some project, and before I knew it, another teacher said she’s going too, and let’s walk over together and just check it out, and here we are.

“When Adar enters, joy increases” – the bright sign was taped over the door to the teachers’ room, in process of being decorated for the evening. The janitor was working on the sound system, testing the mics in a series of crackling sounds; One teacher was setting a table with some food; two others huddled in the corner, talking about some school activities and tests. I figured I’m just going to put my jacket on the chair closest to the door and dash out asap.

Then slowly other women started coming in and the place filled up. Most dressed up quite nicely, treating it like an evening out and not another meeting in the daily teachers’ room; they put on heels and make-up and a fancy headscarf. I figured, no harm in staying a bit and seeing how this develops.

An hour later we’re near the mic, mixing up karaoke words. When there were no more song requests, someone put on music and for the next hour, we were circling, skipping, waving our arms, singing, dancing around the room free style. I looked at each one of them: this one, has four of her boys in various combat units in Gaza; this one’s husband is an infantry officer and has barely been home in months, while she is juggling home, kids, work and other family members with similar situations; this one has a relative who was kidnapped; and quite a number of them were teachers to the graduates who were killed in action.

Each one of us has lost hours of sleep, shed countless tears, ate too much and/or too little all at once… And now it’s Adar. And here we are. And I realize: we are not dancing because for a minute we “forgot” or “don’t care”. Quite the opposite: In a strange way, us dancing is part of our war; it’s us fighting back.

This past Shmini Atzeret / Simchat Torah that became known as “October 7th”, when Shabbat and chag were over here, I wrote the following on my facebook page, what turned out to be a little controversial post:

This might sound like a crazy thing to say, considering the news, and I write it with tears in my eyes, but today, outside of Israel, is SIMCHAT TORAH and If you’re able to celebrate safely, however you opt to do so, even if there’s no synagogue nearby and you’re just dancing in your home, plz, plz do so!

You might think, how can you say this, this is no time for celebration!… so, I agree, don’t drink too much; don’t eat too much; let your voice choke when you sing; dance with tears in your eyes; but… don’t let them win this war, don’t let them take away our holiday(s) as well —-

Further: contrary to what we might think, SIMCHAT TORAH is not about us and how we feel; it’s about her, the Torah; it’s her joy, her wedding day – with us. If need be, we can fake it and put on a smile for 20-30 min of dancing and hakafot, trusting that, hard as it is to see it now, Am Yisrael Chai.

 Almost half a year passed, and here comes Adar, posing the same question.

And we struggle with our sages’ instruction, the one on the banner above the door, to “increase joy”, while our hearts are so pained and so broken. And they look back at us steadfast; and they point to some very dark times in our history, times we thought we will never see and will never-ever happen to us. And they offer us a hand so we can get up too and pass through this time.

The Torah portion of this week, Pekudei, opens with a strange verse: “These are the records of the Tabernacle the Tabernacle of the Testimony” (Exodus 38:21). You may notice the repetition of the word – “the Tabernacle” = hamishkan – and wonder, but it’s not a mistake. That’s how it’s written in the Torah.

Pekudei is the last Torah portion in the Book of Exodus and brings a precise account of the donations received for the mishkan’s building. Then there’s a description of the preparation of the priestly garments and last, putting it all together so it’s ready for the upcoming inauguration of the Tabernacle.

And yet, there was only one Tabernacle. Why does the opening verse say, “the Tabernacle the Tabernacle”? Commentators wonder about this. Rashi, based on Midrash Tanchuma suggests the word mishkan is similar to the Hebrew word for collateral, mashkon. The Mishkan therefore was the collateral for both Temples’ destruction for our iniquities. This is tough: It means that the destruction – of the Tabernacle and the Temple later – was unavoidable?!

In a way, yes. Rav Sherki explains that the Mishkan is the appearance of the Shechina, Gd’s presence, in the world, and since this is something so divine and so out of the ordinary, it is as if the world can’t contain it, until holiness grows, and the Temple (the 3rd one!) and the world will finally better match.

Which means, that sometimes, there will be a Tabernacle and sometimes there will be a Temple, and sometimes – not.

When the Talmud says, “when Adar enters, joy increases”, it’s not only about Purim; it’s already about Pesach too (Rashi on Ta’anit 29:a). It’s a reminder for redemptions in general, now and in the future, in the Land of Israel and everywhere else. The joy of this month is not “funny” or “hilarious”; it’s not avoidance or blindness to what’s going on. It’s a joy that speaks to us of doing what we can, giving and sharing in the spirit of Purim, and most of all, not letting go of our hope.

Shabbat Shalom.

About the Author
Currently a "toshevet chozeret" in Israel, Rabbanit Michal Kohane, trained chaplain and educator, is a graduate of Yeshivat Maharat and teacher of Torah and Talmud in Israel and abroad, and soon, official tour guide in the Land of Israel. She holds several degrees in Jewish / Israel studies as well as a PsyD in organizational psychology, and has been a leader and educator for decades. Michal’s first novel, Hachug ("Extracurricular") was published in Israel by Steimatzky, and her weekly, mostly Torah, blog can be found at www.miko284.com.
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