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Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand argues that we are all fragile beings and explores the lessons we can learn from that fragility.

Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand argues that we are all fragile beings and explores the lessons we can learn from that fragility.

Shoshana explains that, for Jews like her, Autumn brings the festival of Sukkot which acts as a reminder of the fragility of the harvest and of the Jews' ancestors wandering in the desert. During Sukkot, Jews construct a small hut outdoors with a roof of leaves in which they are meant to dwell for the entire week of the festival. These rickety structures are a reminder that safety and security are fragile constructs.

Shoshana draws upon the wisdom of Leonard Cohen, whose Anthem is a celebration of fragility and imperfection. The song's central line "there is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" appears to channel the Jewish mysticism of Kabbalah that asserts that fragility is built into the fabric of the universe.

In the west, we tend to have a fairly disdainful attitude towards the fragile and the broken. Shoshana argues that we have much to learn from the Japanese art of kintsugi pottery. Kintsugi potters smash their delicate creations before painstakingly gluing them back together with gold running along every crack. These once broken pots are powerful symbols of the beauty in our imperfections.

Describing her own brokenness following the sudden death of her younger sister, Shoshana explains that, like the kintsugi potters, she has chosen not to hide the cracks, but rather to embrace the fact that they will always be present. Whilst the death of a loved one can leave us feeling more fragile than ever, Shoshana concludes with the words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel who states "there is nothing more whole than a broken heart".

Presenter: Shoshana Boyd Gelfand
Producer: Max O'Brien
A TBI production for BBC Radio 4.

30 minutes

Last on

Sun 23 Sep 2018 23:30

Music Played

  • Vera Lynn

    I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

    • National Treasure - The Ultimate Collection.
    • Decca.
  • Pete Seeger

    Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)

    • Pete Seeger’s Greatest Hits.
    • BMG.
  • Debbie Friedman

    Asher Yatzar

    • Renewal of Spirit.
    • The Farf.
  • Leonard Cohen


    • The Future.
    • Sony.
  • Helen Reddy

    I Am Woman

    • I Am Woman.
    • Capitol Records.
  • The Beatles


    • The Beatles (White Album).
    • EMI Records Ltd.


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Today’s programme was presented by Rabbi Shoshana Boyd Gelfand

The producer was Max O’Brien