We met, as is our December practice, to pray within a space that honors, rather than fears, the dark time of our year. Since our founding we’ve believed that all people are chosen and all land is sacred, and so we’ve centered our own natural cycles here in the NE US. We’re also an actively anti-racist community, so wanted to resist the western, Christian false dichotomy of light/white/good and dark/black/bad. The dark is not something we suffer through as we beg for light to return – life needs rest, time underground, a place to pause and regroup and gather strength before new growth.
Very little of inherited Jewish liturgy shares this view, as does very little of inherited European-heritage culture. To build these services we pulled first from pagan sources, and later from Wendell Berry, author, activist, and farmer. If you follow our services through the years you’ll see a lot of repetition of liturgy in December, for there are so few source texts. Damn near every poem or prayer that mentions darkness does so only to value kindling lights against the dark, and that is not at all what we mean.
Before Mourner’s Kaddish we paused to acknowledge the death of activist Shatzi Weisberger, known within JVP circles as “The People’s Bubbe.” You can read an article about her practice of The Art of Dying in the New York Times.
From our songs this month:
Elohay Neshamah, Danielle Rodnizki (this is a video taken on a phone from which we learned the song)
To Go in the Dark, recorded by Hannah Fogg (YouTube)
Kol Ha’olam Kulo, Sammy Rosenbaum (via Soundcloud)
All the Room I Need, Esther Golton (YouTube)
Shadow/Light, text from Rumi, written by Juliet Spitzer, recorded by SheWho (via Souncloud)
Come Darkness, Come Light, Si Kahn, recorded by Orion S. Johnstone (via Soundcloud)