Dear WJC Family,
This Saturday morning we will read Parshat Korach, the tragic story of rebellion, punishment, and the fear and anxiety that is left when the social fabric woven by a community is torn asunder. What is the great crime of Korach and his co-conspirators? It is not just that they organize a small coup in an attempt to seize control of the Israelites wandering in the desert from Moses and Aaron; what makes their crime particularly egregious is that they couch their self-interest and thirst for power in terms of care for the community.
While the Torah makes clear that their thirst for power is personal, Korach argues, “You have gone too far! For all the community are holy, all of them, and the LORD is in their midst. Why then do you raise yourselves above the LORD’s congregation?” Not only is Korach adopting the mantle of community spokesperson to achieve his own personal goals, but it appears he and his followers may even be deluding themselves into thinking that their argument is righteous, despite God’s obvious and explicit choice of Moses and Aaron to lead the community.
After the ground opens up and swallows Korach and the leaders of the rebellion, a plague breaks out as punishment for those who were swayed by his argument. The community is left in tatters, the people full of anxiety lament their lot and wonder from where and when the next blow may come. It is an important reminder of the value of community, leadership, and putting the interest of the whole before one’s particular self-interest.
As we appear to be emerging from a year of pandemic, may we never experience anything like it again, it is clear that the normalization of community life presents almost as many challenges to the community as the outbreak 15 months ago. We are blessed with extraordinary lay-leaders like our president Seth Schafler and the members of the Covid-19 Task Force. They continue a careful, steady, and deliberate process of examining the local medical situation, analyzing the advice of government health organizations and recognizing the needs of the community, and setting policy for the synagogue.
For some the process of normalization will seem too slow and for others, it will seem too quick. As we are blessed with such excellent leadership, this is a moment to place our personal views on the back burner, recognize the needs of the greater community and put our faith in our excellent lay leadership. In doing so we not only have the best chance of making the best decisions for our community; we will also maintain the strength of the social fabric that had held so tightly during this difficult year – may we go from strength to strength.
With that said, we are excited to report that policies continue to evolve. This Shabbat, services will look as they have for the last few weeks – the congregation remains masked and socially distanced with people coming up to the bimah for honors and those speaking or chanting on the bimah invited to remove their masks. We will now have the option of indoor Kiddish with regular buffet-style service in the Activity Center – people should wear their masks if they are standing and may remove them to eat when sitting. There will also be tables under canopies set up outside the activity center doors on the Sukkah Patio for those who prefer to eat outside. Masks are no longer required for outside synagogue activities unless it is the policy of a particular activity/event (like youth services).
We are excited to be back in person for all of our regular weekday morning and Shabbat services (virtual access will remain available). We definitely can use help making sure we have ten people for weekday mornings – can you help out one day a week? Please let Cantor Goldberg know.
Kabbalat Shabbat services will be in the sanctuary tonight starting at 7:15pm and I will be delivering the Dvar Torah. Tomorrow morning Rabbi Dalton will deliver the sermon at Shabbat morning services and in the evening I will be teaching at Shabbat minchah/maariv, which starts at 8:15pm. Join us in person or on the Live Stream for all of our Shabbat services. The Source Sheet for my Shabbat Minchah Shiur can be accessed here [www.sefaria.org/sheets/329085] and can be printed out before Shabbat if you will be joining us virtually and would like to follow along, but don’t worry if you don’t get to print it as we will read all the sources out loud as well.
One last important thing – the High Holiday Task Force has been working diligently under the leadership of Susan Miller and Harold Treiber (thank you both!) and plans are being made. Look for important mailings from the Task Force in a few weeks that will require responses from everyone. While it seems clear that compromises will still be required, the Task Force is doing an amazing job trying to accommodate the varying needs of as many members of the WJC family as possible, of all ages and health concerns. In order to do so, it is crucial that you reply to these requests for responses promptly so that we can plan accordingly. We are very excited about what we believe we will be able to offer and it is a complicated puzzle. So, please do your best to partner with us on making these High Holidays as meaningful and inclusive as possible!
In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we read the story of the rebellious Levite Korach and his co-conspirators. We ask exactly what was it that made Korach so angry anyway? He was a respected member of an elite Levite clan? By understanding what made Korach unhappy, we can get an insight into our own happiness and perhaps, by shifting our reference points towards God, become happier ourselves.