By: Rabbi Lori Shapiro
At a meeting last week, I committed a social faux pas. When asked to introduce myself using “my pronouns and access points,” I reflected that there was “no way one person was doing all that I was doing,” and so I requested that my usual pronouns – she/her – be replaced with them/they. After the meeting, several people approached me and told me that they were offended by the way I presented this, that pronouns “are serious” and maybe I didn’t understand?
I did understand, I responded. I am just no longer understood.
In a time when comics lose their popularity for offensive humor, where every comment can be commented on, I fear that we have lost our sense of humor as a culture. I fear that we no longer live in a “safe space” while we are fervently trying to create them. I fear that we have fallen wayward on our path, and are usurping our passion.
There is an interesting word in this week’s Parsha, used in context of an audacious act of personal agency. Pinchas, the Kohen, commits an act of double murder that is lauded by the God character. The “God Character” rewards Pinchas with a “Brit Shalom” or “Covenant of Peace.”
How can this be? In light of our political landscape, should acts against humanity, literally murderous behavior, be rewarded?
It all comes down to one tiny word: Ki’na.
Ki’na, a word tied to passion, is a word that seems to have a negative spin in our post-millinnial times. For the Stoics, passion was debase. In Biblical Hebrew, it translates as “zeal, jealousy, envy or passion.” For the God character, it is one of God’s go to descriptions of God’s self as in “I am a jealous/passionate/zealous God.” It also seems to be, whatever this Ki’na quality is, something worthy of “a covenant of peace.”
So what is Ki’na?
I think it’s one of those words that my Aramaic profession would say “you will spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what it means.” But I think it has value. I think passion is what makes us get out of bed in the morning, it is a driving force for creation and creativity, it can be audacious and bodacious and busy and morally complex and even wrong; but it a force to reckon with. These days, it is unpopular to like or agree with the current US President. That being said, he seems to have a bit of it as well. Ki’na is racy, spicy and entirely démodé; that being said, perhaps it is exactly what most of us need to reclaim to take back our sanity, exile our depression and reclaim our power.
The film Network was recently revived as a Broadway show starring Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame. The iconic moment of its protagonist still resonates in our society and perhaps sums up Ki‘na for our times:
“I’m mad as hell and I’m just not going to take it anymore.”
Go for it. Go Ki’na wild. And reclaim our sanity and humanity.
With Love and Torah Light,
Rabbis Lori and Lori and Lori and Lori and Lori….