Hanukkah Torah Teaching with Rabbi Judith Beiner

November 25, 2020

Hanukkah Torah Teaching with Rabbi Judith Beiner

Connection and Community

While there are private and personal rituals and practices for Jews, much of our faith is expressed in community.  In some cases,  the presence of community is required for certain observances to take place: When we lose a loved one and say the memorial prayer (kaddish), we need a quorum of 10 (minyan) present so that the mourner does not face their grief alone; when we read our sacred texts (the Torah, or Megillat Esther), we do so in synagogue in the presence of the congregation as a way of honoring the teachings.   Many of our prayers are written in the third person plural form ('we') so that we stand in solidarity with one another in worship.   A festive meal (seudat mitzvah) is a component of every Sabbath and Holiday celebration, in which it is customary to have family members and friends around the table.  This allows for the practice of hospitality, adding joy to the festivities at hand.

Additionally, the presence of the group not only enhances a ritual, but makes further commandments possible that would be unattainable for an individual.  For example, through much of Jewish history, the possibility of creating a modern state of Israel was just a dream. Only through our collective efforts has its realization become possible.

These months of the pandemic have presented the Jewish (and other faith) communities with stark challenges to our usual ways of gathering.  Attending worship, a funeral, bible study or life cycle event via zoom, while becoming the norm, feel lacking.  It is very hard to feel a sense of spirituality and connection without being physically present with others.  But for now, it's the best we've got, and has enabled us to share our lives and stay connected.

We have a saying in our tradition:  "All of Israel is responsible for another." Throughout our communities across the world we strive to care for one another, finding strength and unity in our common bonds.

- Rabbi Judith Beiner, JF&CS Community Chaplain