10/11 February 2023, 20 Sh’vat 5783

This week’s Torah portion packs an unusual punch with Yitro giving compelling life advice to Moses, his son in law and consequently to every person who has read Exodus 18 since then. The message is so obvious – working alone and too hard is not just an expression of hubris – but is foolish as well.

The thing you are doing is not good.

You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. This thing is too heavy for you, you cannot do it alone.

It was clear and utterly unambiguous – managing alone is never good. The poet John Donne’s observation echoed this millennia later:

No Man is an island entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent
A part of the main.

Yitro was giving this message; we are stronger, better supported and more effective when we operate together. It is the kindest way. And what Yitro also identified was that people love to be of use, and be part of projects where they contribute and are appreciated. This is a critical piece of Torah now -being of use in a constructive and meaningful way is spiritual work.

Our community manages rather well at involving and benefiting from its members’ skills and generosity. But we can always do better. And getting to know each other in a profound and engaged way is how we go about doing it. Being known and recognised and sharing in this congregation is critical to many of us and the success of our synagogue. What matters to you? This is a question we should be continually asking each other. And I intend to do that at least 70 times this year, not just casually in passing at kiddush, which is also important but real, sit down with a cup of tea or go for a walk kind of time together. An opportunity to carve out time and share a full and real conversation.

So I am committing to seventy of these moments with you all (121s) throughout this our 70th year. And I expect our Council would love to have them with you too. Please book in with Caroline through for a slot. They can be here in the synagogue or a walk or wherever suits. We will begin by connecting this Shabbat for those who will be at services. Be in touch anyway you can.

Shabbat Shalom,