A Letter From Jeffrey Arnowitz

Dear WJC Family,
 
On Saturday morning we will be reading the double Torah portion of Mattot-Masei. Masei is the last portion in the Book of Bemidbar, and as such is the conclusion of the action-parts of the Torah (the Book of Devarim is almost entirely a speech by Moshe that reminds the Israelites of their past and gives them direction for the future.) Masei begins with a review of all the places we traveled and camped during the years in the desert. There is a custom to chant these travels in a special tune that is also used when we read the “Song of the Sea” after the miracle of the parting of the Red Sea. So why does this list of places get its own special tune different from almost the entire rest of the Torah?
 
There are several traditional explanations given, but I would like to present a simple one—moving is challenging and singing makes it a little more palatable. Anyone who has taken a family trip together pre-handheld electronics remembers the power of distracting yourselves with a song—we all just hoped that “99 bottles” would be enough to get us where we were going. According to Masei the Israelites moved some 42 times in their journey from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael. The Arnowitzes haven’t moved that much (Baruch HaShem) but we can tell you a thing or two about the challenges of moving. You can bet that a little singing along the way helped us get through the commotion of moving and continues to give us hizuk (fortitude) as we unpack and prepare the boys for school. Today we celebrate that we have arrived!
 
Yesterday was my first official day as senior rabbi, but the journey continues, our personal journey and the communal journey of this beautiful 100-year-old congregation. I want to take this moment to express my gratitude to all of you who have already made Tami and me feel so welcome. We are still settling in, as indicated by the boxes in our house and my office, but we already feel at home here and can’t wait to meet (or re-meet) you. Please come and see us at one of the many communal opportunities that have been arranged (starting with a patio wine and cheese at the synagogue tonight at 8!) or come to services this Shabbat to sing with us as we enjoy the next part of the journey together. Also, I will be giving a d’var torah on Friday night and teaching between mincha and ma’ariv on Saturday afternoon.
 
My new WJC email is rja@wjcenter.org. I would love to hear from you and find some time to meet either at the shul or for coffee so that we can get to know each other. Scheduling may be a bit of a bear at first, so please be patient. One last request—please continue to tell us your names whenever we meet. We will do our best to remember and will tell you when it is no longer necessary, but until then, you can save us the awkwardness of asking.
 
Now together we begin living our shared history and spiritual life. Looking forward to singing through the journey with you.
                       
See you in shul,
RJA (Rabbi Jeffrey Arnowitz)

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