From the New Year into the Open Space of Heshvan

From the New Year into the Open Space of Heshvan

Now it is 5779.  The once-thin saplings
Have grown tall and blossomed
As have many of our dreams.
Now, as then, we continue to discover who we are
And dream of who we might become.
Now, as then, we treasure the past
And face forward.
~ Carol Towarnicky 5779/2018

As you read these words, we will have completed the entire cycle of Jewish Days of Awe and Sukkot for the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It has been a deeply moving, soulful and inspiring month we have been through together in community, launching us into the month of MarHeshvan ahead.

Traditionally considered “bitter Heshvan” because of the absence of Jewish holidays, and for many of us the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the derailing of a permanent peace between Israelis and Palestinians in it’s wake, Cheshvan was designated as International Jewish Social Justice month some years ago. While that global Jewish initiative has faded, the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable emerged and our own tikkun work is only intensifying in the run up to the November election (it’s a mitzvah to vote- click here to sign-up to help Get Out the Vote!).

We have completed 30 years together as an intentional spiritually activist Jewish community. In the September Kol Shalom and on Rosh Hashanah I spoke of "30" being represented by the Hebrew letter "Lamed" and how it can serve as our guidepost for the year ahead. The lamed is a word unto itself: Lamed means to learn and serves as the root for lilmod, to actively acquire knowledge and lilamed, to teach or actualize what is learned. Lamed is also used as a direction toward action – to move toward or to become. And the Lamed turns nouns into verbs and what might only be outwardly directed action into reflexive and reflective dimensions as well.

As we direct our attention, our action, our Jewish practices this year, let us also remember how, Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan framed reconstructing Judaism “…as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish People and a means to greater ends- the fulfillment of the individual, the responsibility of individuals to treat others as reflections of the Divine image, and the responsibility of each community to seek global justice and peace amongst all communities. We need to do more than emphasize Jewish survival; we must also make Jewish civilization function in the service of these transcendent ends.”

How can the Mishkan Shalom we have nurtured from a seedling to this day, or the Mishkan Shalom many of you have come on board with in full bloom, continue to grow, flourish and stay relevant in our day? How we take care of ourselves as we heal a broken world? What do we need to sustain ourselves as a community and as individuals while rising to the times we were made for.

As Dr. David Teutsch wrote in Reconstructionism Today a number of years ago: “We can create communities of commitment. Becoming a Kehillah Kedoshah, a holy community is an aspiration that can deepen and brighten our lives. If we want greater meaning in…life; if we want it to provide the type of guidance that we know we really need; if we want to be attractive to future generations; if we want to be authentic in our own time and in the light of generations that have gone before us, then it is time to think about the steps we want to take on the journey toward holiness, and toward mutual commitment of community. Those are the echoes I hope we hear whenever we hear the extraordinary Biblical pronouncement, “You shall be holy for I your God am holy.”6

Let us examine, explore and commit to move forward (the Lih/Lamed!) in strength and deeper engagement. As Mishkan Shalom member Rabbi Phyllis Berman wrote in her pre-Rosh Hashanah message to us: “Now is the time according to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., for us to act on the “fierce urgency of NOW”, living fully in the present moment in every aspect of our lives.” 

My heartfelt prayer for all of us is that the journey we are taking together will help us lay the foundation for the coming month and the year ahead in which we become more of who we can, engage the world as emissaries for social change and justice, heal the hurts in ourselves and those we have contributed to in others, and find in this loving and imperfect community, the Presence of the Sacred in our lives and in the world around us.

I invite you to join us in this journey and see this moment as incredible opportunity to create a new future together embodying our foundational principles that direct our individual and communal souls.


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