For everything, there is a season

This past week has been a very Jewish one for me, in so many senses. In Jewish tradition, there is no such thing as joy without the element of sorrow, nor sorrow without the element of joy. The most famous example of this is the breaking of a glass during a wedding, to remind us of the breaking of the temple – as well as to signify that this newly created house is another stone of the rebuilding.

(In case it wasn’t already obvious, this is a very personal post. If it isn’t your preferred fare, that’s just fine. Skip this one, and come back next week. It is, however, important and meaningful to me, and I think it belongs here, too – I am, after all, the sole and supreme judge of what belongs on this site.)

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted

A time to kill, and a time to build up
A time to break down, and a time to build up

A time to weep, and a time to laugh
A time to mourn, and a time to dance

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together
A time to embrace,m and a time to refrain from embracing

A time to seek, and a time to lose
A time to keep, and a time to cast away

A time to rend, and a time to sew
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak

A time to love, and a time to hate
A time of war, and a time of peace

Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, verses 1-8

It all started on Tuesday, with a choir rehearsal for Thursday, and then the fall portion of the community general assembly. This was followed on Wednesday with another choir rehearsal. On Thursday we had a ceremony to mark the fact that the Oslo Synagogue was first used 100 years ago (well, 101, but the ceremony was supposed to happen last year). It was attended by a lot of the community, as well as his majesty the king, and his royal highness the crown prince of Norway – among many other dignitaries.

His majesty, King Harald V of Norway, leaving the Oslo Synagogue. The stairs to the Holy Ark are lined with the children of the community.
Photo credit: The Royal House of Norway

While singing for these dignitaries was certainly fun, the highlight of the event for me was joining the children of the community – my daughters among them – at the end of the ceremony for a roof-raising rendition of Adon Olam. The entire ceremony was streamed to facebook.

Later that evening, I joined a number of other people at the Akershus quay, to participate in the reading of the names of the people who were deported from Norway during the Shoah. A very interesting counterpoint indeed to the joyous event of earlier that day – though the devastating loss suffered by our community was also present in several of the speeches given during the ceremony. Likewise, there was a real sense of happiness that – despite the horrors of the Shoah – we were there to commemorate them.

An empty chair, one of a few, at the Akershus quay - part of the memorial for those deported from Norway during the Shoah.

This shabbat, we had a special Shabbat Limmud – learning shabbat – celebrating the anniversary. We were also celebrating the fact that we have – for the first time ever – produced and published a siddur (a jewish prayer book) based on the Oslo community and its traditions – complete with Norwegian translation.

And yet, sorrow was also with us, as this was the shabbat when we commemorated those members of the Norwegian Jewish community who perished during the Shoah. Saying the communal kaddish hit particularly hard this year.

The jewish week started – and the secular week ended – with the lighting of the first light of channuka. Again, we commemorate both the losses suffered during the Seleucid Empire rule, as well as the miracle of the candle oil lasting a full eight days.

A channuka candlestick, shammash and one light lit.

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