I am drawing back this week from the outage and distress that a court’s decision about reproductive health on the other side of the Atlantic is having on us all. Similarly their reversal of restrictions who who can carry a gun in New York state. I know colleagues and friends the Unites States feel they are in an upside down world; and from where we are standing it looks that way. We in Liberal Judaism stand shoulder to shoulder with them.
But as we know life and ritual continues regardless. Not a business as usual but perhaps a greater sense of what it is we are doing, and a seizing of the moments of gratitude we have.
This Shabbat our current Kabbalat Torah cohort, all seven of them, mark the end of their journey by leading us in Shabbat prayer. They do this as children of the congregation. They love their synagogue, and I suspect we all, regardless of whether we’re actually related to them (spoiler alert: I am the mother of one of these) love them and the commitment of each generation of young people to continue our Judaism “l’dor va’dor”.
Liberal Judaism has always been proud of its confirmation groups – just look at the photos we’ve found of several of these cohorts at FPS. LJ sees fifteen year olds much more capable of engagement and dedication than when they were B’nei Mitzvah at thirteen. We have much reason to be proud this coming Shabbat. We also open our doors for another Open Shabbat in Liberal Judaism to share what we do at FPS, the music we make, the atmosphere we create and the children we teach.
Their portion is Chukat and they have studied deeply the story of Moses’ punishment for hitting the rock rather than asking it for water. Our young people made the connection that Moses was mourning the death of his sister, and loss and grief can make one angry. More than anything they learned from these verses in the Book of Numbers that every action has a consequence. Everything is interconnected. The lack of grieving space and time the brothers had allowed them to make foolish choices (14th century Spanish Gersonides observes that as the eldest sibling and a prophet, Miriam would have kept her brothers from doing anything so stupid as hitting the rock).
Abarbanel (15th century Portuguese rabbi and commentator) notes that the people’s complaint about lack of water comes “just at the time when they ought to have comforted [Moses and Aaron] for the loss of their sister.” No wonder Moses and Aaron act out and strike the rock, leading to a harsh reminder of their own mortality. The consequence is that Moses (and Aaron) won’t see the Promised Land.
Understanding consequences is a good lesson drawn out by our young people this year, and the capacity of their Jewish tradition to teach it. Indeed it feels a lesson we keep on learning in our contemporary world, every choice yields consequences; good or bad.
Do join us this Shabbat.
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