In this week's Torah portion, we zoom in on Abraham and Sarah, the founding patriarch and matriarch of the family that will ultimately give rise to all of Jewish history. The Book of Genesis moves quickly here, and Parashat Vayera covers lots of ground!
In this week's Torah portion, we zoom in on Abraham and Sarah, the founding patriarch and matriarch of the family that will ultimately give rise to all of Jewish history. The Book of Genesis moves quickly here, and Parashat Vayera covers lots of ground! In just the first third of the parasha (the triennial section that we'll be reading this Saturday morning at the minyan!), Abraham and Sarah welcome three strangers into their tent; Sarah laughs upon learning that she will bear a child in her old age; and Abraham bargains with God on behalf of any righteous people who might be among the residents of Sodom. This couple is clearly a little different than everyone who has come before, and they set a new (and very high) bar: demonstrating radical hospitality, playing a key role in the transmission of the covenant to future generations, and calling on God to do justice in the world!
This weekend, here in Seattle, we will also be celebrating another new beginning... this one a slightly humbler undertaking than Abraham and Sarah's new nation, but still innovative and audacious in its own ways. Thirteen years ago, Suzi LeVine and I, together with a talented "launch team" and an incredibly committed group of initial partners, founded a new Jewish community here and called it Kavana (meaning: intention). Like Abraham and Sarah, we believed in an open tent, to welcome the wide range of individuals and families from a variety of backgrounds who might seek to be part of a new Jewish community. Like them, we believed that we had a critical role to play in Jewish continuity... in our case, by building an updated community model that could appeal to the next generation. Like them, we had a sense that our beliefs and values called on us to demand (and also work to achieve) justice in the world. Many of Kavana's specific ideas were unique... from our geographic presence in Northwest Seattle to our pluralistic approach free of denominational labels, and from our personalized approach to Judaism to our strong commitment to each other through our "cooperative" identity.
As we celebrate the B'nai Mitzvah milestone at Kavana, we draw a direct line between ourselves and the family story that Abraham and Sarah began some four thousand years ago. Importantly, this story is not finished... we are still writing it, together, each and every day. Thirteen years into our local experiment, Kavana is a vibrant and increasingly multi-generational community made up of the most incredible people, where Judaism is brought to life in a rich variety of ways. Kavana has touched thousands of lives directly, and our work now reverberates far beyond Seattle, as Jewish communities around the country draw on our example as a source of inspiration. As our organization celebrates this "coming of age" milestone, our community takes on even more responsibility for our own Jewish experiences and identities, and for leaving a positive imprint on the world around us. I have to say, we are growing up quite nicely!
Please join us this Shabbat for services -- on Friday evening, Saturday morning, or both! -- where we can celebrate our coming-of-age together through communal prayer and words of Torah. We look forward to seeing many of you on Saturday evening as well, for our B'nai Mitzvah Party in South Lake Union. And then, beyond this weekend, if you keep reading below you will find so many incredible opportunities to participate in the kinds of intimate, community-building experiences that are the hallmark of this Kavana community.
Looking forward to celebrating this incredible milestone with all of you. Mazel tov to all of us, and here's to the next 13 years (and beyond!)
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum's Rosh Hashanah Sermon, entitled "Let Oneness Reign: A Sermon on Interconnectedness" is available to listen to or read.
This week, I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that Labor Day weekend is now in the rearview mirror! Time has moved very strangely for me during this pandemic period, but still, it has continued ticking forward, and we now find ourselves less than two weeks out from Rosh Hashanah. We prepare ourselves to conclude one cycle and to begin a new one, uncertain about what the new year will bring, but also with a sense of hope.
This week, Parashat Ki Tavo opens with a famous sequence. The Israelites are told that when they will enter into the land, possess it and settle in it, they shall gather the first fruits of the soil, put them in a basket, bring them to a priest, and make two declarations. The first declaration is an acknowledgement that this is the land that God promised to their ancestors. The second, longer declaration is an abridged telling of all of Israelite history in a few verses, beginning with the words "Arami oved avi...":