Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Arnowitz

Dear WJC Family,

This week I got away to Charlottesville, VA, to see friends and do some mountaineering in Shenandoah National Park. I love Shenandoah and it brought back some great memories of hiking in Virginia. On the last day, one of my friends wasn’t feeling up for mountain climbing (previous hikes had taken their toll) and we were slated to do my favorite hike in the park, Old Rag. He offered for us to go without him and he would just hang out at the house we rented. The rest of us had a decision to make.

I was reminded that during the earliest days of the pandemic, locked down in our home, what really hurt was the inability to see our friends, family, and neighbors. Of course, we also missed experiences, the ability to travel and see movies or shows and eat at restaurants; but if you ask what was the hardest part, most people would say it was missing in-person interactions with the people that matter to us most.

 The fact that relationships come first and experience second, can help us understand the challenge before Abraham in this week’s Torah portion Lech Lecha. Abraham is asked to leave from “your land, your birthplace, your father’s house.” Rashi explains the three-fold nature of the challenge God lays before Abraham. He must leave his familiar space, the only place he has known, but most importantly, the people he loves. Still, it is his partnership with Sarah and his nephew Lot that carry Abraham through. The key to Abraham’s success is his relationships, with his wife and nephew and, of course, with God.

 Now as we emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic, it is easy to forget these lessons again, falling back into old habits, prioritizing the coolest looking experience we can put on Facebook over the people we missed so much not so long ago. This trip was a good reminder, Old Rag isn’t going anywhere – it is a fairly imposing mountain – but every moment with friends is precious. Instead of climbing a mountain we walked the milder and flatter Ravenna River Trail in Charlottesville and had a wonderful time. Time well spent.

 As we move forward from here, I hope we can all remember to prioritize relationships and community. It is one of the most important pieces of wisdom we could gain from what we have all experienced. To help re-engage, come experience the buzzing community here at WJC – with opportunities to be together both in-person and virtually. When you are ready, come to the synagogue on Shabbat for one of the services, including our first Simple & Soulful service in far too long. Or take me up on my invitation from the High Holidays to go for coffee and let’s deepen our relationship. Several of you have already done so, but I always have room for more coffee, not to mention deeper more meaningful relationships. We can start with coffee over Kiddish (indoors and outdoors) on Saturday morning!

See you in shul or online,

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