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Community Torah

Creativity, Oneness and the Possibilities that Already Exist

Torat Chayeinu: the Torah of our lives. Talks by members of Nehar Shalom on the second day of Rosh Hashana. Our theme for 5784 is creativity.

Creativity is a concept that is riddled with tension. In an era punctuated by frequent and escalating crises, we must create new ways of being if we hope to survive.

But is such a major act of creation possible? There are limits to what any of us can imagine past our own individual experiences. In the face of overwhelming catastrophe such as the effects of climate change or the violence of systems that deprive so many of basic rights and resources, creating a Livable and Just world can feel like an impossible task.

In my own life, creativity under impossible circumstances has sometimes felt like a burden. I am required to be the most creative at times when I simply do not have the support that I need. Under these circumstances, creation feels lonely, exhausting, and full of risk. I know this to be a common experience among some children of immigrants or children who for some other reason have access to resources that their parents did not have and so carry the complex honor of being the first in their family to achieve certain things.

I am the child of two Brazilian immigrants who both come from experiences of extreme poverty in the years leading up to and during the military dictatorship in Brazil. They were born into harsh lives in which basic necessities such as food and shelter were often unavailable. With a lot of luck and intelligence and labor and love, they raised me in a totally different world. They created a safe and beautiful life for me, and I am incredibly grateful. I believe they needed a lot of creativity to transform their hardship into love in the way they did. Still, as a product of their experiences, there were limits to what they could imagine and actualize for me. They couldn’t help me get into college. They couldn’t teach me financial literacy. They couldn’t teach me to trust many other people or expect that everything is going to be okay.

With this comes a sense of constant underlying dread regardless of how safe or beautiful my life is. This has been a sometimes overwhelming obstacle to building a mature sense of confidence. This is my hardship to transform. And I am fortunate to have immense support in that process.

Almost one year ago, I married Isaac, and the ceremony was better than anything I could have imagined. That day was filled with many blessings. Something that moved me in particular is the fact that my parents watched this wonderful person choose me and choose the pieces of their stories that live inside of me. I no longer have to carry that legacy alone. My parents listened as Isaac and I shared our hopes for the lives that we imagine together – lives that are fuller than anything either of us could have imagined individually. Isaac and I are very different people, and knowing them has greatly expanded the number of possibilities that exist in my mind and my heart. I am drawn to their confidence, groundedness, and outgoing nature precisely because these are traits that are challenging for me to embody for myself. Despite my limitations, they lend me a glimpse into another way of being, and this creates meaningful change in me.

I am learning to think of creativity as a practice of relaxing into possibilities that already exist, possibilities that I may struggle to own alone but that I may glimpse through others and then learn to integrate. When we recite the Shema, we acknowledge our connection to divine Oneness. In this room, I feel our Oneness, and it gives me creative power to feel that running through me, sharing a piece of our collective hardship, our collective strength, and our collective capacity for transformation. On these holy days when we are called to reflect upon who we have been and who we want to be, we are creating ourselves as we are creating each other. It is a gift to be creating myself in collaboration with all of you. Today and every day, may we find ourselves a little more transformed into our best imaginings. Shana Tova.


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