Tuesday, February 01, 2011

We the People?

By Annie Lewis, Storahtelling Maven
A Maven Shabbaton Weekend

Temple Beth El, Boca Raton, Florida

There is a Hasidic teaching that a person should always carry two truths in his or her pockets. In one, “For my sake, the entire world was created,” and in the other, “ I am but dust and ashes.” The challenge is to know the right moment to pull each one out.

Jake Goodman and I had a weekend of revelation at Temple Beth El, in Boca Raton, Florida. We were invited to be a part of the community’ s special festivities as they began the writing of a new Torah scroll.

Friday night, we read parshat Mishpatim. As the Israelite nation arrives at Sinai, we told the story of Rachel Bat Shutelach, who nominates herself to be the 70th Elder on the Board of Elders. Elder 68 welcomes her as the first woman elder remarking, “ We have been talking about how we could use some more diversity on this board.” The words of the Torah record that everyone is present at Mount Sinai and that the people consent to the covenant with God “ in one voice.” Rachel raises her voice to question whether everybody is truly represented. As Elder 68 leads the people in the chant, “Na’aseh V’Nishmah! We will do and we will hear!” Rachel expresses doubt as to whether the people should jump into the new covenant without knowing all the details and the fine print. After all, the Israelite people are fresh out of slavery in Egypt, where they had no say over their lives, where many were no more than numbers. As Rachel makes her voice heard, Elder 68 reprimands her for getting in the way of revelation for everyone.

The community of Temple Beth El helped us to explore the tension between standing up for one’s beliefs and making one’s voice heard, and silencing oneself for the greater good. Congregants shared stories about having to sacrifice their own needs and desires as parents taking care of children and as children taking care of parents. One woman shared a familiar story about being a Jew in public school around Christmas time and making her voice heard to her choir director about the non-inclusive repertoire. One young man expressed his admiration for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the way he spoke up on behalf of himself and his people, and changed the world.

We were honored to be a part of this joyous occasion as Temple Beth El celebrated the power of Torah. We know community members will continue to make their voices heard in the telling of transformative Torah.

No comments:

Post a Comment