A Meditation on Ki Hiney Kahomer from the Kol Nidre service

By Rabbi Adina Lewittes

For Rabbi Alan Lew, z”l, Tisha Be’Av launched the journey of the High Holy Days. The Temple’s falling walls lead us through nine weeks of introspection and teshuvah to learn to live courageously with life’s vulnerability. Celebrating within the fragile walls of the Sukkah signifies our arrival.

On Tisha Be’av we chanted:
Zion’s precious children, like fine gold, how they’re now as earthen pitchers, the work of the potter!

We were like gold – lustrous, durable, unchanging.
We were like precious stones – glowing, unbreakable, resistant.
Now we are but clay jars – dull, vulnerable, malleable.
We shone with permanence. Now we are lackluster, vessels of impermanence.

Was this our curse, our punishment for seeking certainty, immortality? Or was this the source of our healing?

Yom Kippur, a different day of reckoning, echoes:
Ki hinei kahomer beyad hayotzer, birtzoto marhiv uvirtzoto mekatzer, keyn anahnu b’yadha hessed notzer.
Like clay in the hand of a potter, who thickens or thins it at will, so are we in the hands of Life.

No condemnation or resignation; only simple, humble acceptance of the changelessness of change.

Our response? Labrit habeyt, v’al tefen layetzer.
Gaze upon our love, our bond; not upon our brokenness, our coming apart.

If we are separated, let us reconnect.
If we are disassembled, let us reassemble.
If we are broken down, let us rebuild.

Solomon, whose temple’s hefty stones belied their fragility, was also the Master of Impermanence. His wisdom, through the voice of Rabbi Rami Shapiro, beckons:

Emptiness. Emptiness upon emptiness. The world is fleeting of form, empty of permanence, void of surety, without certainty. Like a breath breathed once and gone, all things rise and fall.
Understand emptiness, and tranquility replaces anxiety.
Understand emptiness, and compassion replaces jealousy.
Understand emptiness, and you will cease to excuse suffering and begin to alleviate it.

Like clay jars, if we should shatter, let us remold. With the breath of life that flows within our earthen bodies, let us be sustained through its ceaseless filling and emptying.

About Rabbi Adina Lewittes

Rabbi Lewittes is an interim member of the senior rabbinic team at BJ. She is also the founder and leader of Sha’ar Communities in northern New Jersey offering creative and diverse portals into Jewish life and fellowship, and a frequent contributor of essays and articles to the communal conversations around Jewish identity, intermarriage and affiliation​