Transforming Pain into Beauty, Yom Kippur

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

We have, to date, failed to stop the runaway train of climate change. On this holiest day of the Jewish calendar, we must ask ourselves, How can we find and extract beauty from the pain of our failure? What does it take for us to put love, compassion, and hope at the center of our lives, and in the process transform both ourselves and the world around us into something far more beautiful than anything we have known before?

Part of what it takes is determination and an unwillingness to give up. We can learn something about determination from mushrooms, which push their way up through whatever is needed in order for their fruiting bodies to reach the air.

Photos above by Katy Z. Allen

We can learn something of determination from seedlings and from trees.

Photo by Mary North Allen

We can learn something of determination from the history of the Jewish people. After the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem two millenia ago, the ancient rabbis refused to accept defeat, and transformed their religion into something that would work in the diaspora and without a central place of worship. It was out of the ashes of the destruction of the Temple that the Rabbinic Judaism we live today was born, a deep collective act of turning pain into beauty.

We can learn something of determination from the rebirth of the Jewish people after the tragedy of the Holocaust. So many survivors refused to let their spirits die, but to go on living, and, each in his or her own way, to create.a small, perhaps imperfect, oasis of beauty, the essence of life.

On this holy day, and every day, what keeps you determined to live with love, compassion, and hope?

Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long and has a growing children’s outdoor learning program, Y’ladim BaTeva. She is the founder of the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA, a board certified chaplain, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the in  Yonkers, NY, in 2005. She is the author of A Tree of Life: A Story in Word, Image, and Text and lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the.singing at Ma’yan Tikvah.

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