Dear WJC Family,
With the holiday season behind us, this Saturday morning we begin anew by returning to the beginning—the very, very beginning, as in, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and earth.” It is also the informal beginning of the synagogue service and programming year. The synagogue calendar is peculiar that way; we kick things off with the biggest, most important events, the High Holidays, and then we get down to our regular calendar.
And yet, it feels a little strange to speak about new beginnings at this moment. As I spoke about last Shabbat, if anything we mostly feel stuck in the present tense, in the middle of everything, coping with a pandemic, bombarded by a redundant news cycle, just trying to do the best we can under the circumstances. It seems like a strange time to talk about new beginnings.
The Torah’s beginning gives us some wisdom about this particular issue. The first verse makes it seem like God created the universe out of nothing, which technically God did, but the next verse shows us that the Torah doesn’t start from that very beginning: “The earth was unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep, and a wind from God sweeping over the water…” Why start with a watery abyss and not from nothing?
The Torah is reminding us that every beginning builds on what came before it. That is true if we are building on the legacy of great progenitors or on a murky abyss: every human beginning builds on what came before it. I get that we have been in the abyss and this new beginning won’t be easy, but we are pressing forward and creating opportunities for learning, holiness and community to give a new form and structure to the void we may have been experiencing. This beginning will take an effort on all of our part, and as I saw during the holidays, we are up for making that effort.
Therefore, I hope you will take a look at the exciting programming and service calendar that is taking form and try something new, or at least experiencing the learning, community, or worship that you loved before in a new way. That means register to come to services in person or join us for a Shabbat morning on the live stream. Make time to come to one of the excellent speaker engagements we have coming up! We offer speakers about Israel like Yossi Klein Halevi and Daniel Chertoff; Mindfulness with Cheryl Brause, Song Circles with Cantor Ethan and Rabbi Shoshi, learning with your rabbis on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings, as well as learning with world-renowned scholars from the Jewish Theological Seminary and the American Jewish University by participating the Scholar Stream Program that WJC cosponsors. Sign up your children for great programming like our virtual youth services and the tour of the Tevaland Animal Sanctuary. There is a lot going on and more to come.
Every year we begin the Torah anew no matter what is going on. It is a scheduled new beginning. I hope you will join us in this new beginning as our excellent service, learning, and programming calendar takes new shape for our new reality. Through it all, your WJC family is here for you and if you have a particular need, personal or communal, please let me know.
I anticipate a beautiful Shabbat here at the shul and on the live stream. If you will be joining me for my 8:30am Torah discussion, please download and print out the source sheet before Shabbat by clicking here. In this chaotic time, I thought we’d discuss Cain and Abel and the mystery of brotherly strife as addressed in their story and the midrashim about them. We’ll all have our Friday night virtual service and havdalah, so check out the times below.
See you in shul or online,
Westchester Jewish Center welcomes your contribution to any of our listed funds.