For most people in our culture October 31 is a day of fun, a day to mock traditional icons of evil, spurn death, costume oneself in an alternative identity. It is a day of acquiring masses of goodies, which is more than gold to children.
For some people, this is a day of fear. There are people who believe that it is a night when evil spirits walk and they fear for their souls. And that is sad for their children. But worse, it is a day when abusers take advantage of children’s fear of monsters to abuse them more easily and thoroughly, the festivities of the day creating an atmosphere of magic and monsters that they can play into.
That makes this a day when I think about the healing journey and the valour of all those who create better memories for their children, raising them with the innocent excitement that all children deserve, which they were denied, and yet all the more cherish for their children.
Although I haven’t been to synagogue for ages, I looked up the date on the Hebrew calendar and the portion that is read today in synagogues, named after the first important words that appear, is: Lech Lecha.
Usually translated as “go forth,” the literal meaning of this phrase is, “Go for yourself.”
“And God said to Abraham, Go for yourself from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.”
This speaks volumes to me about finding one’s own truth and it being the basis for a new life in a new place. It also happens to be the passage that I chanted at my adult bat-mitzvah. I was in my mid-thirties, before husband, before kids, but I wasn’t alone. There was a group of us, women who had not had a bat-mitzvah at the usual age, 12 in more traditional circles or 13 in reform ones, celebrating it that day as young, middle-aged and older adults.
For all of us this passage, with its meaning of going out into the unknown and building a new life, resonated. Each of us, for different reasons, had struggled to find a place where we belonged. The journey to it required leaps of faith, going forth despite fear, leaving behind places, people, baggage until we came, with hands open and hearts beating hard, to the place that was truly ours because it was true for us and ours.
And though each human being is alone in birth and death and in the pain of our heart, we are not alone in this journey. Love connects us at the touch of a hand, love connects us through virtual space, love connects us in the light that lies below despair and above exaltation, threading itself before the beginning and after the end. And in every moment we are still going for ourselves, journeying on, walking forth.
Holy, holy, holy say the angels.