By Channah Barkhordari, current Alisa Flatow International Program Student
There's a reason it's difficult to speak when we cry. Pure emotion overtakes our cognition, and all dissolves into unspeakable agony, total chaos. When I woke Tuesday morning, a collective silence hovered over everyone, far louder than the words of comfort. No one could concentrate on learning. No one cracked the same jokes, or smiled like they usually do. No one sang. Just as I thought I couldn't bear that deafness any longer, day turned to night, and my midrasha transformed into a place of music and laughter, love and transcendence. In the face of that pain, we celebrated Chag Sigd.
The girls from Nishmat's Ethiopian program, Maayan, worked for weeks to bring the beauty of Sigd to us. They put on a heartfelt performance with plays about their families and struggles, hopes for return, and celebration of life. They sang as one, and danced with their full hearts. They put together a video in which the girls of the program, and their families, talked about the necessity of dreaming, and that there is no contradiction to being Ethiopian and Israeli, because our story is the Jewish story. One of the students, Zemede, even brought her mother up to bless us all in Amharic, and translated for her. It felt like the closing of a circle, the comfort we all needed.
That night, I saw how their traditions of storytelling, of giving blessings, and above all of yearning for the redemption and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, burns brightly still. The inner silence of that day was shattered, and an incredible, radiant, necessary thing happened. We celebrated their day of complete emunah, of total trust. We shared in that preemptive triumph, like a prayer to God to give us something to celebrate.
We were saying, "Bring us closer to the day when the world will be whole and one, and Your name whole and one." For over two millennia, Jews in Ethiopia lived in rural towns, cut off from the rest of world Jewry, unsure that there even was such a thing as Judaism outside of their small communities. From within the darkness, they maintained the light of hope. On Chag Sigd,16 young women gave us their spirit of strength, their refusal to give up, the honor and pride in their Judaism than runs like an ancient, unbreakable vow coursing through their very veins. They sang in Hebrew because they have returned to their ancient homeland and its language, and they sang and Amharic so their mothers and sisters in the crowd would take pride in their children and sisters who haven't forgotten their roots. And so my heart soared. On a day of brokenness and reflection, they renewed their commitment to eternal life, and took us all along with them. I'm forever grateful to them.