Seven out of every nineteen years the Jewish calendar adds an extra Adar, our current month. During leap years such as this, we celebrate Purim in Adar II. The first Adar can be described as a "hidden month," revealed only when we need it. So too do we more quickly adjust our lives, our patterns of behavior, or even our general outlook when there is something noticeably absent, when there is a need.
Vibrant shuls typically contain a noticeable absence: Peace and Quiet.
The volume of traffic, of classes, of music, of cooking, of logistics, by both volunteers and professionals in a healthy community should defy explanation. But shouldn't we who help "manage" communal programming respond to this volume by inviting a bit more Peace and Quiet? It is to this question, to the considerable burden of sacred work we are all called to do to support dynamic community, that this reflection is directed.
We read in the beginning of our family's story: "Now Jacob was settled in the land where his father had sojourned, the land of Canaan. (Gen. 37:1)" On this verse, Rashi writes: "When righteous people try to live lives of serenity, the Holy Blessed One says, `It's not enough for the righteous their fixed place in the world to come, that they wish also to live serene lives in this world?'"
Rashi teaches us that Peace and Quiet doesn't quite describe Jewish Journeying. I believe the wisdom of Reb Yitzchak Isaac of Zeditchov should be our guiding principle as living, evolving, exciting Jewish homes. He writes:
"There is a difference between kinds of Peace. Shalom is the deepest kind, effecting body, wealth, and soul. Other forms of peace are experiences of contraction. Jacob wished to live in serenity, in contraction, just enough to make due. But the Holy Blessed One, out of Love, wished him a true experience of life, knowing that the deepest human experiences are not only in the world to come but that a measure of ecstasy can be present in this world as well. Some people are satisfied with little, eating to maintain the soul. The drama of Jacob's life caused him to descend into Egypt, where the deep experiences during his final 17 years exceeded all the joys of the past."
Sitting still would be so much easier. Settling down for some quiet would be so much simpler. But if we contracted our community's lives (or our own), we'd miss the deepest experiences waiting to emerge. And if we held back that which we are all becoming, think of the loss that would mean for so many. Our holy communities and all the "volume" we nurture are blessings to old and young, to those searching for safe sacred Jewish environments, and to those who have built those very homes.
May we not get settle for contraction and quiet when rapturous noise is in our power to release.
I had a beautiful day today. I stood with my sister, a passionate rabbi serving the U.S. Navy as a chaplain, at the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. We remembered our grandfather of blessed memory, who fought for America and shared hard-earned wisdom with his children and grandchildren.
I looked to my right and saw the Washington Monument. Looked to my left at the Lincoln Memorial. I read quotes engraved on massive stones. And I felt, to my core, one sad feeling: too much war.
Too. Much. War.
The quotes and certain retellings of history would have me believe that we fought for pure purposes: we fought for religious freedom, we fought to end slavery, we fought for freedom for all humanity, we fought to end tyranny. But it's also true that we fought (and fight) for economic interests. It&…