Rabbi’s Message Nov/Dec 2020

The High Holidays are now in our rear-view windows, and with it, the glow still lingers. It really was a remarkable experience, happily and almost unexpected given that we were (and are) firmly planted in the era of COVID-19. We found community in a completely different way, and oddly enough, our inability to meet physically opened up the doors of our sanctuary and introduced the joys of Reform Judaism for the first time to literally hundreds of homes in Winnipeg and elsewhere. We not only prayed together, we got to share our way of life and a peek of modern liberal Judaism with the rest of our community.

Our challenge and our opportunity is to do more of that “stuff” in the weeks and months ahead. As we well know and as we reminded ourselves over the High Holidays, Judaism is all about action — individually in how we deal with ourselves and the world, and in how we establish, grow and maintain communities.

COVID-19 will define our physical proximities with each other for a long while yet, perhaps into late 2021 when an approved and effective vaccine will give me/us the confidence to gather again in close proximity. But we don’t have to be alone. The High Holidays are proof of our capacity to create wonderful sharing communities; we are learning to trust and rely on Zoom and other technologies to let us see and talk and sing with each other. Our huge mass gatherings like the High Holidays or our Friday night Shabbat services are just the start; it is also Patricia Kovnats’ upcoming Jewish Mindfulness sessions or Ruth Livingston’s Read Hebrew classes on Monday nights or my Intro to Judaism classes. These too are real community experiences, available to each of us with an email or a phone call.

I have come to love the notion of us creating a “community of communities” based on the unique skills and experiences of our members, creating a unique tapestry that is simply ours. However, it won’t happen by us sitting on our hands waiting for “someone else” to offer the magical great ideas for us. And it won’t succeed unless we participate, not just for the activity itself but for the opportunities for us to see and get to know each other better in places and spaces where we can even invite friends outside Temple Shalom to join us and join in.

So much of our High Holiday commitments for the year ahead were about living with kavannah (intention) and to try to do so every single day, rather than “meh” and “maybe tomorrow.” In these days of COVID-19, it is especially important that we engage and really see each other. This applies to how we approach the whole world and also to how we experience community at Temple Shalom — not waiting for others, but by stepping forward and doing our own small parts as well.

So, here are some questions and challenges that each of us might want to explore: What do I like doing? Do I have an “idea?” What am I good at? Are there others that I know that have the same interest, either as participants or to lead? Can I let someone know? Do I have time or skills and energy on my hands that I might offer to Temple Shalom? To the Jewish community? To the world?

Challenging times by necessity create incredible opportunities for innovation, and I am excited to see what you/we do in the months ahead as we work together to build a vibrant liberal Jewish community.

Rabbi Allan