Churbin – Destruction

Dear Friends,
I’m searching for language for the catastrophe that befell New York City this week. We were in a car returning from a barn dance Halloween party, little Elmo falling asleep, and the driver called it an accident. English was not the driver’s mother tongue, and I assume he implied only one of the meanings of that word. Though the act was intentional, wreckage of that magnitude usually occurs by accident, when a driver loses control. Caused by accident, the wreckage is then named an accident. This was different.
I’m struck by the event, and surprised by how struck I’ve been. Catastrophes of greater magnitude have hit less hard. Maybe it’s the proximity. Our community, blocks we traversed that very afternoon. We replay the scene – moments later, or moments earlier, and someone I know steps across the path.
The Hebrew that comes to mind is churban – destruction, desolation, desertion; reserved most often for use in reference to the destruction of the holy temple. We are temples unto ourselves. Build a sanctuary that I may dwell among you (Exodus 25:8). You are the sanctuary. They were sanctuaries, destroyed.
So many others quick to speak, give language, condemn, name. Delilah was doing her radio show while I ate falafel at a Turkish spot the next night. Her show was going to be a space of love, of coming together, of comfort. That did not resonate with my falafel. There is nothing that can be said which takes away the destruction, and comfort may not be what we need right now. Let there be more silence. Life is precious and fleeting. Who by water? Who by fire? Who by truck on the west side highway? Every day is Yom Kippur.
Spend tomorrow far from hedonism. Be an ambassador of grace, or beauty, or kindness, or whatever you’ve been put here to give over. Bow low to everyone you meet, paying no heed to race or class or any ingratitude you’re served. Make a fierce blessing over the meal upon your sacrificial table.
How pleasant your tents Jacob, dwelling in the land – like palm groves taking root, like gardens beside a river, like angel planted aloes, like cedars hovering over water.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Zach Fredman



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