Appreciating the Beauty in Routine

This article is reprinted from BCC’s newsletter, Gvanim, vol. 49 no. 2, November/December 2020, Cheshvan/Kislev/Tevet 5781.
Cantor Juval Porat

Image of Cantor Juval Porat wearing a burgundy shirt and smiling in front of a dark background
Here we are, on the other side of the High Holy Days, and it’s already the middle of Cheshvan! There’s a bitter-sweetness to the month of Cheshvan as it contains no Jewish holidays – well, that’s not entirely accurate if you consider the celebration of Sigd, one of the unique holidays of the Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jewish) community, celebrated on the 29th of Cheshvan (more on the significance of Sigd at some other time!). Some might consider Cheshvan to be bitter for its lack of holidays, and some might consider Cheshvan to be sweet for the exact same reason.

Let’s explore more of the sweet angle of Cheshvan. We have just concluded almost three months of momentous year-cycle events, made even more significant by all the ways in which the pandemic has asked us to expand our comfort zone, engage our creativity and patience, sit with anxiety and uncertainty, and find new ways to observe holidays in community. After all this, Cheshvan gently invites us to return to the beauty of routine and predictable patterns. It allows us to find joy in the everyday, run-of-the-mill aspects of life and consider it a gift to ourselves, a way to keep us on track amid all the uncertainties.

The call for creative ways to connect during an extraordinary time continues. As the days grows shorter and with the hope for the blessings of rain that usher in the winter season and an election result that we hope will contribute to our sense of safety and healing, the celebration of Hanukkah will ask us once more to recognize miracles. We will focus on our lights and honor our unique, most authentic selves, made up of numerous overlapping and intersecting identities.

This year, as we engage in the lighting of our Hanukkah candles for eight days from afar, we invite you to share with us the miracles you’ve witnessed  — acts of kindness and resistance, technology, health, a connection you might not have anticipated, skills learned and experiences enjoyed or endured. Let us consider

  • The miracle of being seen for who we are,
  • The wonder of celebrating gay love,
  • The miracle of our ability to integrate all of our overlapping identities, and
  • The wondrous and myriad ways of spelling Hanukkah!

We encourage you to pre-record yourself lighting a Hanukkah candle, sharing briefly the miracle to which you dedicate the lighting. Look into the camera and complete the statement “I dedicate these Hanukkah lights to the miracle of…”

You may also send us a written paragraph. Please send your contributions to Rabbi Jillian and myself. We will share your stories throughout our eight days of virtual Hanukkah candle lighting ceremonies.

You might have heard the news of BCC taking on the first-of-its-kind Synagogue Vegan Challenge, established to encourage Jewish communities to experiment with vegan living for one year, with the overall mission of challenging these communities to “think more deeply about animal welfare, kashrut (kosher laws), and compassion for all through gentle, non-judgmental discussion and by showing how nutritious and tasty plant-based foods can be.” – The Shamayim V’Aretz Institute. (See Brett Trueman’s article in this issue for more information about this program and how you can participate.)

I’m delighted to be hosting our first event of the challenge, together with my colleague and friend Cantor Tifani Coyot from our neighboring community of Temple Isaiah. Please join us on November 22nd at 7:30 pm for a conversation (and some music and sharing of recipes!) called “Feeding the soul – at the intersection of plant based diet and Jewish spiritual practice”. Please check out BCC’s website for more information.

While there’s so much more programming going on (as always, I encourage you to check out the BCC calendar on our website and the weekly news bulletin), allow me to highlight one more learning opportunity. Our renewed Worship Lab, Lay Service Leader edition, is tailored to all those who’ve been thinking about sharing the bimah with a clergy partner during Friday night services and thus taking part in what has been a foundational part of BCC’s culture. If you have ever wondered what goes into the preparation of a Shabbat service, or thought about giving a sermon at BCC and weren’t sure how to translate your ideas into words, or were wondering where to look for new music for our liturgy or where familiar tunes originate, then these four Worship Lab sessions are for you! Of course, we’d love to have you, even if you just want to learn more and be in community with fellow students! Please register online at https://bcc-la.org/worship-lab/

As we move into 5781, I pray that we find a renewed sense in the routine, an appreciation for the sacred, stability in the holidays sprinkled throughout the year, and blessed opportunities for rest and work, surrender and resistance. I am grateful to be in community with you all.

And stay tuned for news about a virtual Hanukkah concert – more information coming very soon!

B’shalom,
Cantor Juval