May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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Fueling for Liftoff From the Garden of Eden

July and August were not filled with the usual type of adventures this year. This year’s days of summer were filled with guidelines, memos, Zooms and more Zooms—all focusing on a most different opening of school, one that we could have never imagined. Orders of plexiglass, sanitizers and new room arrangements populated the to-do list in this summer like no other.

And as I sat on the floor this Tisha B’Av on that hot summer evening, once again, maybe the most famous line from Eichah stood out. חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם “Make our days new, like they were before.” (5:21)

It stood out because the word chadesh is one that we seem to be using a lot these days. So many are saying that it is a “new world” or a “new reality.” But in fall 2020 the word “new” takes on a much more complex meaning than ever before. Chadesh has the connotation of newness, of hope and of abandoning a past chapter and moving forward to bright new beginnings.

But as we usher in 5781 and begin the season of renewal, how do we renew with hope and vision? How do we renew with optimism when, at least for the foreseeable future, life will most likely continue to be chaotic and unpredictable—far from the stable world we long for?

The Midrash, Eicha Rabba 5:21, is helpful in addressing this question. It does so by helping our understanding of what exactly was meant by this word kekedem in our verse, “as in days before.” What are those “days before” that we want renewed?

The first answer is that these days before were like כְּאָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, when the first human dwelled in Kedem. Rashi says that we all want to go back to the time of Adam. It was in the Garden of Eden where, even where there were pitfalls and shortcomings, access to the Divine was direct and Godly presence was always felt.

Kedem also comes from the hope that we are able to serve in the Temple, כִּימֵי עוֹלָם וּכְשָׁנִים קַדְמֹנִיּוֹת. The Temple times were not perfect, there was infighting at times and complicated political realities, but what the Temple represented was a time where our connection with God was palpable.

With these examples in mind, kedem becomes not a state of physical renewal or a chronological turnback but a state of mind and soul. Kedem is a time of connection with the Divine and a clear understanding of our purpose and priorities in life.

קֵ֥דְמָה, kedmah, easterly, is also related to the word kedem. Each morning, out of darkness comes new light from the sun coming from the east. It is not a promise of a perfect day, but it is a promise that light will shine to help us see the world and our lives more clearly. In this way, חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם is a hope that every day is one where we can use our lenses to live a life of meaning, of contribution and of focus on change for the better.

One more thought: Entering a new year, whether it is the school year or the Jewish year, always has its challenges. But this year those challenges are stronger than ever, and with those challenges comes an understandable fear.

One way to address that fear is to realize that there are so many people around us who work to support our growth. R. Eyal in “Maagal HaShanah” states that we can live with this fear if we know that God desires our success. We can take comfort in knowing that whether it is God, or a parent or a friend or a colleague, those who matter most to us are behind the scenes cheering us on to grow and thrive.

And in uncertain times of fear, like the times in which we live, it is important to channel those people’s influence and energy as we embark on new beginnings. That is what helps give us דלק להמראה מחודשת, the fuel for a new launch—a launch with fortitude, purpose and focus.

As we embark on this school year like no other, parents, faculty, students and administrators must realize that while we are challenged, and while we have fear, the greatest strength and blessing comes when we access the connection and support both from God and from those around us. With the support of one another we can fuel one another and gain a storehouse of energy for the year to come.

And with that energy, may we be blessed to dig deep and be infigurated to renew our best selves, to focus forward and reach for the sky.

Rabbi Aaron Frank is head of school at Kinneret Day School.

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