Dear WJC Family,
As I have mentioned a few times before, I am continuing my formal studies at my alma mater, The Jewish Theological Seminary of America. I am pursuing a degree called Doctor of Hebrew Literature, a doctorate designed for students who wish to pursue advanced academic work in a field of Jewish studies, but who do not wish to pursue a traditional academic career. My field of concentration is Jewish Thought. I am truly honored to have been named the inaugural Chancellor Arnold M. Eisen Graduate Research Fellow. I am grateful for the congregation’s support of my continued academic pursuits.
This semester I am taking two classes: Troubling Traditions: (Modern) Jewish Philosophy as Ethics of Reading and Classic Texts and Ideas of the Kabbalah. They are both fascinating and if you are interested I am always happy to speak with you about my learning in each class. In honor of the weekly parsha though, Bereshit, it’s the latter that I want to mention here.
To oversimplify a bit, early kabbalah was very focused on letters and sound – and why not? As we read in the Torah this week, God “spoke” and the world was created. This fascination with letters (which was shared with their early rabbinic forebears) led to special attention on the fact that the Torah starts with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet ‘בְּ’, rather than the first ‘א’, as one might expect. To these early kabbalists the ‘א’ is not a soundless or “silent” letter. Rather it is the potentiality for sound, the moment before speech when we wait to hear what comes next. By the time we read the word Bereshit with its ‘בְּ’, the sound is defined; in this moment before Bereshit we wait with anticipation for what reality is to come.
This moment of potential is reflective of this moment in our calendar as well. We are a couple of weeks out from the High Holidays, we have celebrated the subsequent holidays of the month of Tishrei, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Now as we are about to begin the Torah again, we also begin a new year in earnest. It is what one early kabbalist, Asher ben David, a provencal kabbalist of the mid-13th century, called an Eit Ratzon – a moment of primed for Creation. So, having had time to reflect on our High Holiday experiences, on the messages of the prayers and the teachings, on the time with family and friends, what will we create in this Eit Ratzon? What blessings will you give? How will you take better care of your spiritual self? In what new ways will you commit to your Jewish journey and the WJC community? I look forward to exploring the answers to these questions with you in the year we will “create together,” the Jewish year 5783.
A great start would be coming to services on a Shabbat soon, maybe the regular service in the sanctuary or a contemporary service or yoga. Whatever is your choice of connecting, Friday evening and Saturday are the best times to come and be part of our vibrant and active Shabbat community.
And we have another Eit Ratzon, another moment of potential and creation, as we embark on our Strategic Planning process in earnest. During the last few years our community went through some significant changes. Some of the changes we chose, like new rabbis, while others were foisted upon us, like the changes brought on by the pandemic. In this moment of potential, it is crucially important that we get your opinions, which you can share first by filling out our Strategic Planning survey here, and then by participating in one of our Strategic Planning Committee’s listening sessions. It’s not just that we want to hear from you – if we are going to truly plan for our future as the community we are today, we need to hear from you!
Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey and sign up for a listening session.
See you in shul,