How to find hope — without pretending everything's okay

Rabbi Rayzel Raphael led a workshop at the 2018 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Toronto, just days after a horrific shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. She said finding light means accepting — not skirting — those feelings of despair.
Rabbi Rayzel Raphael said you can’t have lightness without darkness. (Submitted by Rayzel Raphael)

Rayzel Raphael, a self-described "unorthodox" rabbi based out of Philadelphia, doesn't mince words when it comes to the state of the world.

"The darkness is here," she told Tapestry host Mary Hynes, after her workshop at the 2018 Parliament of the World's Religions in Toronto.

Tapestry host Mary Hynes met Rabbi Raphael at the Parliament of the World's Religions in early Nov. 2018. (Melissa Gismondi/CBC)

Many of the issues discussed at the Parliament reflected that sentiment. Topics included climate devastation, violence against women, genocide and white supremacy.

The Parliament also started less than a week after a mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 people dead and many more injured.

Raphael shared her thoughts on how to get through even the toughest of times and — as she says — make "life a party."

Don't pretend life's easy

Raphael said accepting feelings of hopelessness and despair is an important first step. That's because you can't have lightness without darkness. The two go hand-in-hand.

"You cannot see the light in the light," she said. "You have to see the light in the darkness. This world does not exist all in the light."

A spiritual practice is called a practice for a reason.- Rayzel Raphael

Raphael said this is an important teaching in Judaism. For example, she pointed to the tradition of breaking a glass at a wedding, which is a reminder of the destruction of the first temple in Jerusalem.

"Now why would you want to bring in a destruction of a temple at a wedding? Because we recognize life is not easy," she said.

Pause and reflect

Raphael also stressed the importance of spiritual practice. What that looks like will vary from person to person.

For some, it's yoga, meditation, or a long walk in the woods. For Raphael, it's lighting candles on Friday night to bring in the Sabbath. The point is to establish a practice and then do it — consistently.

"A spiritual practice is called a practice for a reason," said Raphael. "We have to build up a muscle."

To help with that reflection and inspiration, Raphael has developed a set of oracle cards based on the teachings of Shechinah — the divine feminine in the Jewish tradition.

One of Raphael's oracle cards based on the teachings of Shechinah. (Submitted by Rayzel Raphael)

Each of the 55 cards in the deck feature depictions of Shechinah teachings. The ritual of the cards is simple: You ask a question, pick a card, and see what Shechinah has in store for you.

The idea is to help people discover new spiritual traditions by experiencing them.

Raphael said that finding a way through the darkness means making time for things that bring you joy.

"Life is about making the party. You can go to a funeral every day, but if you want a birthday party, or a bris … you have to make the party. Life is about making the party," she said.  


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