Photo of TBS’s pomegranate tree by Rabbi Sharon Sobel
“You are standing here today all of you…Atem n’tzavim ha-yom kulchem.”
These could be the opening words of our Rosh Hashanah liturgy. Rosh Hashanah begins two days from now on Sunday evening when Jews all over the world gather together to usher in our New Year, 5783. Instead, they are the opening words of this week’s Torah portion, N’tzavim, from Deuteronomy 29:9.
Our text reiterates that all of the Jewish people, past, present and future stood together at Sinai as we entered into the covenant with God. The key words in our text: we stood together. Age, gender, occupation, world-view, opinions – none of that matters. What matters is that we gathered together, connected, as one united people in community.
We read parshat N’tzavim immediately prior to the High Holy Days as a reminder that making connections as sacred community is critical to our existence as a people: connecting with our innermost selves, connecting with our Jewish community, our friends and family and connecting with God.
There are times when the High Holy Days arrive and we feel as if those connections are too difficult to achieve. We may have been out of touch for awhile, or relationships may have been strained, or gone awry. This is the season of tikkun, repair, and teshuvah, returning. How do we strengthen and renew those relationships and connections so we feel renewed, refreshed and revitalized? We first re-connect with friends, family and loved ones on an individual basis and then we come together, we “stand together” – “atem n’tzavim” – as it says in this weeks Torah portion – as a community.
From a communal perspective, we make those connections the same way we do on social media: by being part of a larger community. The more connected you are, the more connections you will make and the deeper and more meaningful those connections will be.
We are taught in our tradition: Al tifiros min hatzibur – Do not separate yourself from your community (Pirke Avot 2:5).Traditionally, in the Jewish world, a “community” is defined as 10 people. This concept is known as a minyan. Why? Because a group of 10 people has the power to persuade others to make decisions. If you are in the synagogue and you’re not feeling moved by prayer, the voices of others around you can lift your spirits. There is great power, strength and fortitude in community. When we study in chevruta, in partnership with others, we inspire each other by sharing our questions, our insights and our own thought processes. And, as the old UJA Federation slogan said: “There is no commUnity without “U.”
As we approach the High Holy Days this year, I offer this blessing:
May you find your place & space in our Jewish community.
May the connections you build be strong and vital.
May these connections enrich your spirit and nourish your soul.
May you hear the innermost voices of your heart.
May you feel touched by the hearts and hands of those around you.
May you touch the lives of others in meaningful ways.
May you hear and feel God’s presence in your life.
And may you continue to bless our sacred community with your special gifts, presence and light.
Shana Tova U’m’tukah – Wishing you and your loved ones a New Year bright with promise, filled with hope and all the blessings of health, joy, contentment and peace!
Rabbi Sharon L. Sobel
Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth Sholom