Holy Cities.

When I heard the news about the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in South Carolinain the Lowcountryin Charleston… I was overjoyed! In my head, I heard the lines from Jewish wedding liturgy as though they were being broadcast through town by loudspeaker:

“Let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the bride and the voice of the groom.”

There’s a phonetic word play in the Hebrew: The Hebrew word for “voice” is kol, spelled with the Hebrew letter kuf. If you change the kuf to a kaf, the word sounds the same, but it means “each” or “every” – “EVERY bride and EVERY groom.” And this is exactly what recent decisions have meant: ALL brides and grooms can now celebrate their joy and gladness as they legally pledge their commitment and devotion to one another.

That this is now true… in South Carolina… still fills my heart with joy.

Yet the same week joy and gladness filled the streets of Charleston, we learned that Jerusalem was rocked by tragedy and terror. In the same synagogue space in which brides and grooms would stand beneath a chuppah, prayers for peace instantly turned to cries of anguish.

As I sit in one “Holy City” – my heart turned east toward The Holy City – I hear the same words and pray with all my soul:

“Let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness.”

For all people. For all time. And, please, let us say: Amen.

(Im)permanence

This seems as good a forum as any to admit it:

My name is Stephanie.

It has been 26 days since the end of Sukkot.

Our Sukkah is still standing.

Back when we lived in Iowa, we would have considered this a real feat. (Flashback to 2007 when, uncomfortably pregnant with the boy, we called our neighbors to help tackle the stupid sacred structure as the wind blew it like tumbleweed across our snow-covered backyard. And that was still during the festival. Ah, memories.)

But a Sukkah isn’t supposed to stand forever. It’s supposed to be impermanent. It’s supposed to look out-of-place in its place – and therefore special, significant, inviting. It’s not supposed to blend into the landscape – becoming just another “wall” for an impromptu baseball diamond, an obstacle to mow around, another place for fallen leaves to congregate. Worse yet, it’s not supposed to become something so taken for granted that it’s not even seen at all.

Yet how quickly the makeshift can become permanent if we allow it. So shame on us.

It’s now a little more than two weeks until Thanksgiving; our Sukkah will be down by then – along with perhaps a few other routines and structures in our lives, so that there’s a little more space in which to be aware of our blessings and express our gratitude.