Read Rabbi Felicia Sol’s Kavannah for Hatikvah from the Upper West Side Community Vigil
On Monday evening, the Upper West Side Jewish Community gathered together in prayer and solidarity for our brothers and sisters in Israel. Below is the kavannah Rabbi Felicia Sol shared to close out the evening, before concluding with the singing of Hatikvah. Watch the recording of the vigil or read the full transcript below.
In the late 19th century, a Jew from Galicia, Naftali Hertz Imber, composed a nine-stanza poem entitled “Tikvateinu,” our hope. It carried with the it the longing for the land, a recognition of the grief and pain of being exiled and of course the hope of return to the land of our ancestors. That poem, eventually whittled down to two verses, with some amendations, was then set to music. It was sung in 1945 when hundreds of survivors of Bergen-Belsen sang it on Kabbalat Shabbat, five days after their liberation. It was sung following the proclamation of the establishment of the state of Israel May 14, 1948. It wasn’t officially adopted as Israel’s national anthem until 2004.
Each time I sing those words, I feel so deeply connected to all the hope and will and commitment and vision that went into establishing the state and sustaining it over all these 75 years and I am also connected to the gap—to all the hopes that have not yet been realized: of peace and security for all those who dwell within Israel’s borders.
Today, I returned to that original poem and was struck by two of the verses that echo the words of the book of Eikha, the book of Lamentations:
כָּל עוֹד דְּמָעוֹת מֵעֵינֵינוּ
תֵּרֵ דְנָה כְּגֶשֶׁם נְדָבוֹת
וּרְ בָבוֹת מִבְּנֵי עַמֵּנוּ
עוֹד הוֹלְכִים לְקִבְרֵ י־אָבוֹת
As long as tears from our eyes
Flow like benevolent rain,
And throngs of our countrymen
Still pay homage at the graves of our ancestors.
כָּל עוֹד שָׁמָּה דְּמָעוֹת טְהוֹרוֹת
לִבְכּוֹת לְצִיּוֹן בְּר ֹאש אַשְׁמוֹרוֹת
יָקוּם בַּחֲצִי הַלֵּילוֹת
As long as pure tears
Flow from the eye of a daughter of my nation
And to mourn for Zion at the watch of night
She still rises in the middle of the nights.
Oh how the tears have poured in these last days. Tears of shock and disbelief. Tears of pain and sorrow. Tears of helplessness. How many more graves will we have to pay homage to? And not just of our ancestors but of our children who went to a party in the woods only to be wounded, or kidnapped, or murdered. Or three generations of families that lived on a kibbutz, only to meet their death in a place that had been their home since the early founding of the state. Or young soldiers sent into battle. How many more night watches will there have to be until the rockets and the terror will end and people will be able to sleep through the night? How many tears will be shed and how many innocent lives will be lost?
Our grief is enormous, our disbelief profound and yet, the hope remains everlasting.
עוֹד לא אָבְדָה תִּקְוָתֵנוּ
Our hope is not yet lost. It will never be lost. The hope that those that are being held hostage will be returned safely. Hope that humanity, sanity, and love will overcome hate, violence, and terror. Hope that we can still pray for hope. In fact, in Imber’s original poem, he wrote that only with the very last Jew, is the end of our hope. And look around us. How many of us are here and on the livestream.
We are here together to grieve, yes, but also to insist on sustaining our resilience and hope. We will need to shed our tears and we will have to cultivate our faith that hope is not only possible but necessary and even in the darkest moments, that we can be
לִהְיוֹת עַם חָפְשִׁי בְּאַרצֵנוּ
To be a free people in our land and in peace and security.
We will need to hold each other in our mourning. We will need to sustain each other in these challenging days ahead, we will need to do our part to reach out to our brothers and sisters in all their diversity in Israel and we will need to rise up in faith and in hope that the vision of our prophet will someday be possible.
וְיָשְׁבוּ אִישׁ תַּחַת גַּפְנוֹ וְתַחַת תְּאֵנָתוֹ וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד
And that each and every one of us may sit under our own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.
May that hope be everlasting.