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Rabbi Stiefel's Monthly Article

Rabbi Sharon Stiefel

Mayim Rabim

May 2020

 

Evolving and Moving Forward

 

            As Reconstructionist Jews, we embrace the fact that Judaism develops, adapts, and changes over time. Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionism, defined Judaism as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people. The Judaism of Biblical times was not the same as the Judaism of Rabbinic, medieval, modern or contemporary times. Evolution occurred --- and continues to occur --- over centuries.

            Fast forward to today. For me, the Judaism of the past month has been unlike the Judaism of two months ago. Remember when we used to shake hands or extend a hug? When we used to sing together at services? When we used to sit and share food with one another at our potlucks?

            The word “evolve” evokes gradual change. I feel instead that we have catapulted or been flung into a new Jewish reality. Modern technology has many of us adapting and learning platforms we had barely heard about or had little experience using. We are grateful to those few in the congregation who are well versed in Zoom and help the rest of us get up to speed.

We started with using our phones via a conference call for our first service. We progressed to getting a Mayim Rabim Zoom account and using it for classes, services, our Seder and the book club. Slowly we are finding our way in learning how to make on-line gathering as connective as possible for our community. Unfortunately, there are a few of our members who are left out as they are only able to connect over their phones.

            For all of our steep learning curve, we are seeing the strength of our community. Members are reaching out to one another so we know we are not alone in our daily challenges. For all of the struggles and losses, there are also silver linings. Creativity is blossoming on-line. We are witnessing a technological progression that will change the Judaism we know. One small example is the numerous Zoom sedarim I heard about with extended families and friends across time zones and even continents. And next year, when we look back, hopefully much of life as we knew it will resume, though with more electronic versatility. 

            We are in the period of the counting of the Omer, from the second day of Pesach to the beginning of the holiday of Shavuot - 50 days in all. One reason given for counting is that the Israelites were not sure if their wheat harvest would come to fruition. A period of anxiety. Not the anxiety we are feeling now, but nonetheless an uneasiness of not knowing how things will turn out. Trepidation of getting through the period and anticipation of a successful harvest at the end. 

            There is an old folktale about King Solomon, who sent out one of his servants to find a magic ring that would make happy people sad and sad people happy. The servant went on the search for this ring for a year and returned to the palace empty- handed. Just as he got to the palace’s gate, he met a jeweler and told her what he was seeking. The jeweler told him to return the following day. The servant returned and was handed the magical ring with the words inscribed, “gam zeh ya’avor” – this too shall pass.

            This too shall pass. And until then, as we’ve done before - - and will after --- we will look out for one another and face the fullness of life together.

            Be well, stay healthy and remain strong.