Friday, June 2, 2017

Naso/Shavuot: All in this Together...

I've been thinking a lot about communal responsibility lately. I find myself focusing on the idea that everyone has to do his/her part; everyone has to contribute to
make things - ALL things - work. It's true on a local level, and it's certainly essential on a global scale. Our Torah portion this week, Naso, spends a fair amount of time stressing this point. In fact, the longest chapter in the entire Torah, Numbers, chapter 7, is entirely dedicated to emphasizing precisely this concept. Also, Ohev hosted an incredible program a few days ago, which demonstrated our own commitment to communal responsibility and the importance of building a shared future, where we all take care of one another. Maybe THAT'S why this notion has been so central for me this week...

Naso informs us that Moses finished building the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, which was the portable worship and sacrifice space that the Israelites brought with them
throughout the Exodus. Once it's been dedicated, all the tribes bring sacrifices to the Tabernacle. And the Torah lists, in perhaps painful detail, EVERY item brought by EACH tribe; something that is especially surprising because they mainly bring the same "stuff." And yet, the Torah wants to be explicitly and unequivocally clear that EVERYONE contributed. They were all invested in this shared enterprise, and they had an agreement - like an accord - that bound them all together. It takes 89 verses to fully elucidate this ritual, making chapter 7 fully TWENTY verses longer than any other chapter in the Torah! The point is made really clear: We all need to do our part, and we all need to make sacrifices (sometimes literally!) to our shared, common goals.

On Tuesday night, Ohev hosted a program for the holiday of Shavuot. But this year was unlike any Shavuot event we've done before, and without question different from any Shavuot I've ever experienced.
You see, this year, Shavuot coincides with the Muslim month of Ramadan. AND it's the week of Pentecost for Christians. So we brought together a panel with representatives from the Buddhist, Christian, and Muslim communities, to dialogue with me about the concept of Revelation in each of our faiths. Over 110 people came, which made the evening all the more impactful for everyone present. After our panel discussion, people broke into small, diverse groups to continue the conversation. The Muslim group then broke their fast of Ramadan, chanted for us their Call to Prayer (which was amazing), and then held their own prayer service in a room in our building. When was the last time you heard of a Muslim group praying in a synagogue??! And finally, we shared a meal (complete with blintzes and cheesecake for Shavuot!) together. It was a night few of us will ever forget.

This is our community. In a sense, it's our world. And we do not live here alone. Like our ancient ancestors, we each need to bring ourselves to the shared table, and we need to invest in one another and commit to our common goals. Shavuot celebrates our receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai, but the Torah was never meant
to exclusively benefit the Jewish community! On Tuesday, we shared with over 100 people OUR Torah, here at Ohev Shalom. We demonstrated what we stand for by opening up our doors and our hearts, and by celebrating all the things we have in common with others, and honoring our differences as well. It isn't just about one special night either. We've been doing this for a couple of years now, with programs like FUSE, which has the same goal. And I know I can't pretend that everyone shares these values. But I also can't worry about what's going on in the rest of the world. Our Torah and our ancestors teach us to partner with others in our community, and build a better future together. So that is what we are doing; I hope you'll join in and do your part. Thank you.

Photos in this blogpost are from the event on Tuesday evening (before sundown...), courtesy of Amy Pollack.

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