Don’t separate yourself from the community...don’t judge another until you have been in his/her place...and don’t say ‘when I have leisure I will learn,’ [for] perhaps you will never have that leisure. [from Pirke Avot/Wisdom of our Ancestors 2:4]
As I write these words, the temperature outdoors is cooler, stores are holding back-to-school sales, and I am into High Holy Day preparation – all signs that the summer days of 2017 and 5777 are nearing their conclusion. Challenges and difficulties among us remain; ideally however, we can look back on a summer of rest and enjoyment in the company of family, friends and colleagues.
The road ahead – the new Jewish year 5778 - is one of promise; promise that we must ensure comes to pass. The High Holy Days, beginning with Erev Rosh Hashanah on September 20, will be a time of reflection, emotion and the gathering of our Jewish community in hope and inspiration. We will renew our devotion to the God of Israel, Torah and Jewish living. And we will pledge ourselves to taking care of one another.
We will begin our annual observance of the Jewish calendar. How blessed we are to possess not only the January-December calendar, but one incorporating our special days: Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Hanukkah and all those that follow. May we continue to imbue these sacred times with the spirit of which they are deserving.
We will continue to learn from and teach one another: involving ourselves and our children in the array of Jewish educational opportunities at Temple Shalom and the larger community. We will commit ourselves to lifelong learning. In this way, we become better Jews and better persons, as we facilitate the unfolding of a better world.
We will take a compassionate interest in other people’s lives. We will visit the homebound and hospitalized. We will assist those in need of meals and/or transportation. We will make phone calls and send emails. We will endeavour – to the best of our ability – to ensuring that none in our community are overlooked. This is hesed – kindness – in its purest and holiest form.
We will join together for Jewish lifecycle events: the naming of children, Bat and Bar Mitzvah, Conversions to Judaism, marriages and funerals. We will celebrate when we must and grieve when required. We will be present for both moments of joy and sadness. We will schedule our time accordingly – irrespective of last-minute adjustments – assuring fellow members of our community that we are with them when needed.
We will participate in the life of the Temple – and larger Jewish community as well. We will strive to be present for worship, learning, and socializing, volunteering our bounty of skills and gifts for the good of congregational and communal life, while creating new and lasting friendships as we do so. All contributions - large and larger – will be valued.
We will be forgiving – of others and ourselves.
And in keeping with Judaism’s Golden Rule: we will love our others, as we do ourselves.
It is a good road ahead. And beginning with Rosh Hashanah, we will undertake to travel it together.