By the time you read this, the new year will be only a day away. All of the editing, framing, recording, and preparing for worship will be complete. The only thing left to do will be to take a deep breath and let Rosh HaShanah and 5781 arrive.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been a worshiper and nothing else during the high holy days, and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I’m used to the adrenaline rush and the total exhaustion indicative of completing something important. I expect this year, the holidays will be quieter and calmer for me, and something else that I don’t yet know how to put into words. Regardless, together with staff and clergy, volunteers and experts in their fields, dedicated leaders and supportive members, we have indeed put together something amazing. Not just high holy day worship, which has indeed been a labor of love, but a community in the truest sense of the word.
Over the last year, our Temple Jeremiah community has dedicated itself to the things that truly matter – to people, to personal growth, to compassion, and to creating a safe haven in a chaotic world. But that work doesn’t just happen–it happens because you, each of you, make it happen.At Jeremiah, the community is created by the individuals who have dedicated themselves to it. At Jeremiah, the sum is indeed equal to each of its parts, and I just want to take a moment on Erev Erev Rosh HaShanah to say thank you.
It is traditional to do a bit of Torah study every morning, which usually takes the form of reciting a piece of the Mishnah called “Eilu D’varim.” These things are limitless, it says, they have no equal and the reward comes long after the act. It goes on to recite 10 deeds a person might do to make the world a better place: visiting the sick, celebrating with wedding couples, being passionate in study, honoring parents and mentors. But it concludes with an ambiguous statement: “The study of Torah is equal to them all.” Does this mean that adding together each of the acts equals Torah? Or does it mean that each individual act on its own is equal to Torah? The text isn’t clear.
I prefer to read the line the second way, that each individual act carries with it the same benefit, reward, and meaning that Torah does. In fact, if you had to choose between opening the scroll to read or to do one of the acts listed, like caring for guests, you could and should choose to act. In Judaism, the value and reward for acting are the same as studying the Torah itself.
The same is true for our study and actions at Jeremiah.Each of you had committed yourself in unique and individual ways to building our community. You’ve acted and studied and cared and found reasons to show up in a million different ways. And each of those actions, each of you, is just as important as the Torah that sits at the center of our community. In my book, all of you are Torah in your own unique and individual way – and I am honored to spend my days studying the Torah that you offer to us all.
I am grateful and honored to have gotten through this last year with you. I am grateful and honored to welcome 5781 with you. I am just overwhelmed with gratitude for you.