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Prepent Day 20+21: Grief and Kindness

Friday 9/23/16

Elul 20 5776

Today, we are publishing a double love letter for your double super Sabbath souls. Wishing you a restful, peaceful, and love-ful Sabbath. Be back on Sunday!

Dear Grief,

Two nights this week I met you face to face, in many people’s faces. One late night, inside the Park Avenue Armory, I was privileged to attend Occupation of Loss, a ritual performance of wailers and lamenters from 30 countries, held inside Taryn Simon’s stunning art installation, about ‘the anatomy of grief’. Just last night at the Manhattan JCC I sat with Zen monks and spiritual leaders discussing the important new book Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life.

The conversations after both events brought out the tales and tears and truths. How little we give room for you, our grief, in our social interactions. How afraid of you we are.

Halfway through this Prepent journey, on day 20, eve of our third shabbat, the gift of grief is present. Yom Kippur often represents the day of death, face to face with mortality as reminder to make every moment matter more. What if we or those we love have 20 days to live? What will we mend, heal, grieve and leave behind? We can learn how to face death with less fear and more love. Perhaps that’s one of the goals of these days of return. I look at this year that has passed and recall losses, pockets of grief, big and small. An aunt, a mentor, friends, parents of friends, strangers in violent riots and victims of wars.

My father died on Friday evening almost two years ago and since then when I light the Sabbath candles a speck of grief burns with the flames, one of the many hues of the flames of the sacred and the unknown, mixed in with simple joys like friends around the table.

Grief, when you come this next year, As you will, as you do please Come with more love than fear. And don’t come alone, come with friends, those who will hold my hand and the ones whose hands I’ll hold in mine when needed.

Shabbat Shalom,

Amichai

Saturday 9/24/16

Elul 21 5776

Dear Kindness,

Gina Sharpe, co-founder of the New York Insight Meditation Center, a radiant teacher, has this quote from the Buddah on her bio page: “Abide with hearts imbued with loving-kindness extending over the first, second, third and fourth quarters, above, below, around, and everywhere, to all as to oneself; abide with hearts abundant, exalted, measureless in loving-kindness, without hostility or ill-will, extending over the all-encompassing world.”

At the event I attended last week to launch Awake at the Bedside: Contemplative Teachings on Palliative and End of Life, she chose to read aloud “Kindness,” a poems from the book, by the Arab-American poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

On this Sabbath of Elul, 21 days I rest in this poem, thanking you, Kindness, for sending good teachers of so many different types to teach me how to be more kind – to me, to others. Where have I been unkind this past year, this very day? What can I do to increase kindness? Please be with me, be me, this coming year “everywhere, like a shadow or a friend.”

Love,
Amichai

PREPENT: Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie’s annual journey to the new year, with 40 ways in 40 days to reflect, refocus, recharge and restart life. This year features daily love letters inspired by Lab/Shul’s theme for the High Holy Days, “וְאָהַבְתָּ re:love.”

Subscribe to Lab/Shul’s mailing list to receive this free daily blog in your inbox by checking “Prepent” as a special interest, share them on Facebook or Twitter, or read it online at the Forward.

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