As Canadian Jews, we live simultaneously with two calendars. Almost every day, I am asked to correlate the two calendars when it comes to determining the date of a yahrzeit or verifying the date when a young person becomes a bar/bat mitzvah. The pocket-sized English/Hebrew calendar I carry in my pocket lines up the two calendars on a daily basis. Thus, I was struck when my little calendar juxtaposed Rosh Hodesh Kislev with the words “Kristallnacht remembrance,” marking the 80th anniversary of the German pogrom.
Rosh Hodesh is a joyous time. The first of Kislev, in particular, is a happy time because it precedes Hanukkah, which begins on the 25th of the month. During Kislev, we celebrate how the few overcame the many, how a small container of oil miraculously burned for eight days, how the Holy Temple of Jerusalem was cleansed and re-dedicated after the Syrian Greeks had profaned it. Rosh Hodesh Kislev is and should be a day of rejoicing.
How, then, can one synthesize the festivity of Rosh Hodesh Kislev with the horrific remembrances symbolized by Kristallnacht?
I do not believe there is an easy answer to this question. What comes to my mind, however, is the practice of breaking a glass object to culminate a wedding ceremony under the huppah. This ritual is meant to recall the destruction of our Holy Temple, as we are commanded to do every day of our lives. Even while celebrating a wedding, we briefly recollect a tragic event that occurred twice in antiquity and which led to periods of exile.
Similarly, when I officiate at weddings in the fall, I add that the broken glass also reminds us of Kristallnacht. The strength of the Jewish spirit is our people’s ability to celebrate our joys even while we commemorate our sorrows.
The juxtaposition of Rosh Hodesh Kislev and Kristallnacht this year will challenge us to embody the fullness of our Jewish character.