Elu v’Elu: The Power of “And” Expanding Our Perspectives and Taking Action

Reaching out and reaching in are two integral sides to the same dynamic of building sacred community. I am committed to building a welcoming and spiritually activist community that seeks to grow not only in our membership and financial abundance in the face of national synagogue trends, but in our collaboration, compassionate connections, and ability to love each other without judgment.  We will act for transformation, sustainability and tikkun of our world. What are we opening our arms, hearts and tent wide to, if not these and other meaningful Jewish and human values?

During the High Holy Days (Yamim Noraim) with Rabbi Yael and our wonderful clergy and lay leadership team, we will introduce a new theme for the year. We will explore living into and embracing life’s complexities and build on the tradition of our Sages who teach: “Elu v’elu divrei Elohim Hayyim- these AND these are the ways of the Source of All Life. The ability to hold multiple perspectives and realities, to balance diverse views and to respect both majority and minority opinions, has been a core value and compassionate perspective of our historic tradition. It is a gateway to mutual understanding, our own healing and the well-being and sustainability of our planet. Much of this builds on the SHMITA year just ending and moves us forward in relation to our own communal evolution and needs of the local and global community.

This stands in contrast to the in/out, with us/against us polarities of much of the religious, political and cultural discourse that dominates our world today, including our own Jewish and broader community. Religion, race, privilege, responsibility, blessing, challenge, gender constructs and identities, continuum of ability needs and capacities, particular, universal- these AND more offer us opportunities to grow, change and connect with ourselves each other and the world.

Mordecai Kaplan wrote on September 11, 1943 (Diaries, Vol. 12e): “All life and action express themselves in the particular and take on meaning when that particular is subsumed under some universal principle. The particular without the universal is blind. The universal without the particular is empty.”

As we look ahead to this year, with new and continuing Board members and committee chairs, new and returning members, an amazing staff, including the addition of one of our own beloved teachers/members Julia Weekes to help coordinate Teen activities, and -- thanks to an RRC grant -- doubling the time of our rabbinic intern Julie Benioff, we are poised to move to a new phase in the life of our community. Founding members can join the new generation of members to fulfill our mission and vision. Please look at the wide-array of educational and programmatic offerings coming this year and get involved in volunteering and/or participating. This is the year to raise the bar of involvement.

On Shabbat morning, September 12, we will remember Ron Fischman on the first anniversary of his violent death and unveil a Yarzheit plaque in his memory. We will chant the verses from Dvarim, Deuteronomy 30:11-14, which underscore our focus in the year to come (my translation):

The direction I am offering you
Is not too confusing or complex
Nor is it beyond your reach.
It is not in the heavens… neither is it beyond the sea.
It is accessible in your own words and heart.

As I take these words in myself, I assess my own leadership of service at Mishkan and in the world, my partnering, parenting and friendships. I see my contributions and growth, and more often than not my falling short of the person I long to be in this precious one life. If I have unintentionally hurt or missed the mark with any of you, please let me know in kindness so we may move into this next year with a more open heart together. Let us go forward in the truth of the “AND” of possibility together. This is going to be a remarkable year for our community. Elul tov v’Shanah Tovah U’Mitukah--wishing all of us and our precious world rebirth and renewal in the year ahead.

Rabbi Shawn Zevit




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