“Do not separate yourself from the community.” Hillel
Considering how essential community is to Judaism and the Jewish people, it has always surprised me that the ancient rabbis didn’t speak directly about its importance. This quote from Hillel is one of the only quotes I have found that directly acknowledges our responsibility to the community. Our responsibility to community is more indirectly acknowledged in our Jewish rituals – for instance, in the mitzvah (commandment) requiring 10 people in order to say Kaddish with a mourner; or in the concept that Shechina, God’s presence, dwells with people who study together.
In any case, there is no question that Judaism puts great value on supporting others, being present for people in times of joy and sadness, cultivating new relationships and nurturing long-term ones. Hillel’s words warn us about being alone and separate, both for our sake and for the sake of the community at large.
Sometimes it has been a struggle to feel a sense of community during this pandemic. Online services, phone calls and zoom chats can’t replace in-person contact, and masks literally mask those facial expressions that reflect and inspire emotional responses. Other times, often when in great need, we have felt our community as a tangible presence even from a distance.
Now, it feels like we exist in some interim existence, a middle place that is both online and in person and yet not really either, a twilight kind of Jewish expression. We know that our situation could change in an instant. Still, if we follow Hillel’s advice and the guidance implicit in our rituals, our responsibility is clear: to remain active within our community.
We have many options to remain active within our community in very concrete ways. For the next three Shabbatot in a row, we have three young people becoming B’nai Mitzvah. Every few years, I write an article about how all congregants should be present at these services, showing our young people and their family that we value their growth and recognize their new place in our community. This is that article, and being present for these families at Shabbat services – in person and online – is a concrete way for all of us to remain part of our community.
On Friday nights, our B’nai Mitzvah students will be leading more of the service than ever before. The temple and sanctuary is open so you can choose to attend in person to celebrate and worship with them and their families.
On Saturday mornings, the congregation is invited on Zoom to celebrate with the families as their children become B’nai Mitzvah: they will lead us in worship, read from Torah and Haftarah, and teach a lesson from their portion.
Join us – Fridays in person or live-streamed and Saturdays on Zoom – and be connected with the community.
Oct 8/9 with Jayden Seifer
Oct 15/16 with Jacob Horne
Oct 22/23 with Lilli Treitman
Both the families and our congregation deserve a Mazel Tov for guiding these young people to the next stage in their Jewish Journey.