I am amazed by the many people who have enriched our lives during the past year at Temple Beth El. Synagogues really are like families, with a complex system of relationships that ebb and ow and, hopefully, ourish into a marvelous ecosystem. The Jewish calendar has an ebb and ow as well. We repeat the various holidays and Torah readings each year with an order and structure, and a certain expectation of familiarity throughout our encounters. There is another expectation, however, that the fruit of our repetitive encounters will somehow yield something new: some new insight or revelation, a fresh approach to a situation, or perhaps a new relationship.
In Judaism, we are encouraged to study Torah “b’chavruta,” in partnership. The term chavruta is actually derived from
the word for friend, “Chaver.” We are thus instructed to encounter the tradition, and also to encounter one another. In our modern world it is easy and tempting to study alone. We can open an Art Scroll Siddur or search the internet and nd answers to our questions that seem satisfactory. Our tradition, though, strongly discourages this self-centered approach to learning. Our sages teach that one who sits alone to study Torah becomes stupid! True learning comes from explaining and testing our ideas with other human beings and arriving at new conclusions through a repeated, collaborative e ort. This is also true in prayer, where we are encouraged to pray with a minyan. Praying in the Jewish sense means to engage in a uniquely human endeavor: to seek change, and to examine our desires. When we do this as a community, as a family, we can achieve a spiritual state that cannot be experienced in solitude. As we gather together again this year, may we do so with our hearts and minds open to encountering the divine, and each other, in new and wondrous ways.
Emily, Henry, Michael and I wish you a very sweet and happy New Year, Hazzan Randall Levin