While the Gregorian calendar changes in January and we think in terms of new possibility for a New Year, the Jewish calendar is in its 10th month of the year in reckoning months, and its 3rd month in reckoning years, as the year 5775 continues on since its start with Rosh Hashanah.
Instead of looking at new beginnings in January, something we did with the arrival of Tishre (the end of September, from a global perspective) and with Nisan (last April, with Passover, from a Jewish perspective), January gives us pause to appreciate momentum we have generated recently.
Three particular gatherings come to mind that are indicative of B’nai Israel’s promise, and in these moments I am thinking of, fulfillment of community strength and blessing: The second Friday of December, over 60 CBI members and friends enjoyed the monthly Shabbat Seder, which many refer to as our signature program, and there we celebrated Alan Goodban’s major birthday. The energy and joy in the room was palpable and memorable, with high points reached by Alan’s wife Nadine as she led us in a vibrant dance during the service and ended the festivities with her infusion of joy and merriment at the close of Birkat HaMazon, the prayer after the meal that celebrates God’s gifts to us as we enable them to come alive with our presence and participation.
The second gathering that comes to mind, while much smaller in scope, was large in impact; I am referring to the Shabbat morning service with over 20 of us together on the third Shabbat of the month. While those numbers may not sound like a memorable gathering, they were energizing, for us, in that we had more than double the minyan/quorum of Jews for an otherwise non-event Shabbat morning (OK…it was also Chanukah, and actually quite eventful with the added songs of Hallel!). The level of energy and participation, again, was palpable and uplifting. That is because of you, the people that comprise this unique community. We welcomed back someone we hadn’t seen in years along with another who had been out recovering from illness, along with one of our families whose children delight us in their leadership of the service.
I am not one that counts numbers in terms of valuing one experience more or less than another, however, you couldn’t help notice on this Shabbat morning the difference an extra minyan of people made in terms of the enthusiasm and feeling of uplift that filled (yes even with over a hundred and twenty open seats…it still felt full, at least to me!) the sanctuary. The rabbis teach that from the story of Creation opening with the first two human beings, Adam and Eve, we are to remember that each person is a world, and out of one person can and does come generations to follow, as evidenced by those that survived the Shoah bringing forth new generations of Jewish life. I think of this teaching because with over 20 worlds coming together on that Shabbat morning, you had something very special in terms of community manifest at CBI.
The third gathering that I shall treasure as we move forward with 5775 was the CBI celebration of the 6th night of Chanukah. Even with so many other holiday activities going on at the time and in the area, over 60 people came together to rejoice in the continuity of Jewish identity which is the focus and meaning of Chanukah, after all the presents have been unwrapped and its true meaning uncovered. What a grand party it was!
What makes these examples of community gathering so significant is that studies show participation in community add years and quality to people’s lives. While America doesn’t do community that well, in an individual oriented society, indications are that when people belong to community, such as a synagogue, especially one as welcoming and warm as ours, it adds to everyone’s wellbeing. It reminds me that the difference between wellness and illness, in the spelling of those words is “I” and “WE”. The more CBI members and friends make time for one another at the activities we provide and generate, the better for us all in terms of health, not only spiritually and emotionally, but again the studies indicate, it adds to our physical wellbeing and even longevity.
I share these thoughts with you mindful that these 3 gatherings occurred in a month that we lost two long-standing pillars of our community, Shirley and Walt Bogner, with Walt dying ten days after Shirley, having been childhood sweethearts for life. While they were not well enough to attend our gatherings in the last couple of years, long timers know they were among the energizers of community for us in their prime with Shirley singing during the Days of Awe.
Judaism’s greatness is in enabling us to make lifetime memories at our gatherings, ceremonies and celebrations; when we tap into such gifts, we give each other, and all that participate, the gift of wellness and the knowledge that we have contributed to life worth living.
If January is a time to rededicate ourselves, i.e. to make resolutions to worthy causes, consider making time for your community that is B’nai Israel. It is a good investment for you… and for us all!