Emor – 5783 – Sacred Time

By: Rebecca Bradley

I have never felt so squeezed on time as I do now. My to-do list is endless. I have Scout training items to work on, cub scout pack meetings and den meetings to plan, and camp forms to send in. I need to plan the summer trip we are taking to New York after the kids finish camp. Noah’s bar mitzvah year is counting down. I have to get bids for a new roof after that hailstorm and deal with a bee infestation. It’s time to protest the property taxes and I have a project at work. I need to study my torah readings and write this dvar. There is always more to do. Part of this parasha lists out the special times of celebration for the Israelites like the weekly Shabbat observance and the annual Jewish holidays. No matter what is going on during the year, we are told to pause at these appointed times, these “moadim,” to celebrate them in the prescribed manner. Each of these holidays and times is important to God. They summon us from our mundane lives and bring us to “meet” with Hashem. By taking the time to prepare the sacrifices in a specific way, by eating the unleavened bread, by counting the days of the Omer until Shavout, the holiday rituals ground us in our dedication to God by deliberately focusing our actions on celebrating our connection with our Creator. And although it is not listed in the Torah—Moshe seems to have left it out—we know of one other “moed,” another special moment in time we are called upon to celebrate each year: the anniversary of the founding of our Kehillah. On THIS particular anniversary, our 10th, we should take a pause. Just as God paused after the 6 days of creation, to rest on Shabbat and delight in its offerings, we too should pause and reflect on what we have created over the last 10 years and delight in our accomplishments.

We started with borrowed siddurim and machzorim. When we purchased the Sim Shalom siddurim, we did so before any of the other area shuls. We wanted more than one choice for chumashim, so we bought two different ones for people to use. We borrowed a Torah, then bought it, then a few years later we bought another one. We started to hold classes and to participate in community events. We suffered, like many organizations did, during Covid, but we realized it was more meaningful to be together than to be apart. 

Before the founding of our Kehillah, when I was a member of Shearith Israel, I didn’t give a second thought to missing a day. It didn’t matter to anyone if I wasn’t there. But here? It gives me angst when I have to miss a Shabbat, because I know my friends are counting on me. I know I am a valued member here. When I broke my shoulder, all of you were there for us, bringing us meals. Everyone is valued here, and whatever role you have decided to take on—be it leading services, reading Torah or haftarah, sponsoringa kiddush, working on our website, acting as a gabbai, editing our Nuggets newsletter, researching and delivering divrei torah, or being one of our “seat fillers” on Shabbat, ensuring that we have a minyan simply through your presence—every single one of you is the Kehillah. If even one of these roles goes unfilled, our Kehillah service can’t be complete. 

For the last two out of three weekends, I have been away at a leadership class put on by Boy Scouts of America, called Wood Badge. Wood badge, which started in 1926, is a multi-faceted leadership training course that combines team building activities, leadership education, and ends with each person committing to doing five things of their choice that betters the scouting program. Leadership is many things. It is developing a vision and mission, communicating with people, and guiding people towards achieving a goal. The vision of the Kehillah back in 2013 was to “provide a warm, engaged, Jewish prayer community and provide educational, religious, social, and recreational activities.” I think we have remained true to that vision. If we consider participating in the Kosher Chili Cookoff to be recreation, then I think we have been fulfilling it.    

Parashat Emor details the duties of the priestly leaders of the Israelite community, delineating both the behavioral restrictions that the priests must adhere to and the personal characteristics they are expected to display. In doing so, Emor describes two distinct approaches to leadership we can apply to our own lives. The first is through education, by directly preparing the next generation of priests—or in my case, scouts—by teaching them how to fulfill their roles. The second way to lead is through influencing others. Your actions can sometimes speak volumes—even more than your words. By living lives demonstrating an almost extreme example of holiness, the priests could influence the average Israelite to live a righteous life according to God’s teachings. Likewise, a scout leader’s behavior—their method of teaching, the way they speak to their scouts, and the inspiration they can inspire, can be a role model whose influence can last a lifetime.  

Some of you may be considering Susan’s Kehillah Anniversary Challenge of trying something new in your Jewish lives; some of you may have already taken up the challenge. Some of you may have decided that taking on this challenge is too much for this moment in your lives. Regardless of your choice, I would like all of you to think about how your willingness to try something new, both in the Kehillah and elsewhere, can influence another person you know to step out of their personal comfort zone and try something new as well. In the Yotzer prayer, which comes just before the Ahavah Rabbah and the Shema, we describe God as “ha’mchadaysh b’tuvo b’chol yom tamid ma’asei breisheet.” Loosely translated, this means that, in God’s goodness, the work of creation is constantly being renewed each day.

Today, I ask you to take a pause, to count your blessings, both in the Kehillah, and in your personal lives. Take stock of your friendships near and far and renew your dedication to creating and recreating them each day as you envision what your own life and the life of this Kehillah might become in the future.

Happy Kehillahversary and Shabbat Shalom.