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Between Light and Darkness, Sacred and Profane


Between Light and Darkness, Sacred and Profane

by Samantha Brinn Merel

The candle flickered wildly as it was held high above our heads in the darkened sanctuary.

A hush fell over the crowd as the rabbi began the recitation of Havdalah - the blessing said each week to mark the end of Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath.

We don't normally find ourselves at a synagogue on Saturday night, but we had come to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, and stayed to hear Havdalah before we went about our night.

Layihudeem haytah orah v'simcha v'sasone v'eekar.  There was light and joy, gladness and honor for the Jewish people. 

The ancient and familiar words washed over me as I stood surrounded by people - people who have been friendly and warm and open since our arrival in this new town almost four months ago. And the move was hard, but at that moment I felt lucky. Lucky that we have landed in this place at this time. Fortunate that, as orthodox Jews, we are a part of a community no matter where we go. That anywhere on the planet, there are people to whom we belong. To whom we are inextricably linked by the chains of our heritage and the richness of our history.

Baruch ata hashem elokainu melech haolam hamavdil bein kodesh l'chol.  Blessed are You, Lord our God, ruler of the world, who separates the sacred from the profane

My vision had been blurred since our move. My entire existence seemingly built upon one prevailing message: "I live here now, and not there." And as someone who tends to look at life from a glass-half-full perspective, it has been disconcerting to have my usual optimism escape me.

But on that night, I felt more like myself than I had in months. I saw, for what seemed like the very first time, the beauty in beginning this new life. The unique appeal that makes this particular community different from all the other Jewish communities we considered when we were looking for our place. The rare qualities that make this place our place. What makes it important and holy. What makes it sacred rather than ordinary. Bein or l'choshech.  Light from darkness. I understood that for the past four months I had been living in a kind of darkness. Floating from day to day, just doing what came next. Missing my old life and home, and spending far too much time pondering what it would have been like to stay where we were, rather than uproot and move to where we are. Blurring the lines between what was and what is, and keeping a foot strongly planted in "before" rather than living in "after."

But standing in the darkness I was finally able to look at our move and see it in the light. I was able to see clearly an ending and a new beginning. I was, for the first time, able to point to our life in Manhattan and say that was then and this is now, and be at peace. Baruch ata hashem hamavdil bein kodesh l'chol. Blessed are You, Lord, who separates the sacred from the profane. As the final blessing of Havdalah was recited and the candle was extinguished and the sanctuary came alive once more, a couple girls I had met a few days before came up to say hi. And while we were talking I glanced over at the men's section and saw David similarly surrounded by new people. By new friends.

He was smiling. And so was I.

And in those moments, I was home.


This post was originally published on Sam's blog.

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ADR Friday Loves 09.26.14

Bagels and Cream Cheese