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!)
The decisions handed down by the Supreme Court over the past week have been gut-wrenching. I know that many of you are sharing in my experience of grief and anger, and contending with a sense of disequilibrium, as we are forced to grapple anew with what kind of a country we’re living in. There’s a human fantasy that we can make the world work the way it should. But the radical shifts we’re witnessing in our country’s direction are reminding us of the fact that real life doesn’t work this way.
We begin our Torah portion with a minor textual dilemma. By the time we end the portion, the Israelites will have faced a major spiritual dilemma - and failed. I think the two dilemmas are related.
This week's Torah portion, Parashat Beha'alotecha, opens with instructions about how to set up a "menorah" -- literally, a lamp-stand or light source -- in the mishkan. Thus it happens that the haftarah (prophetic reading assigned to accompany a particular Torah portion) for Beha'alotecha is the same one we read on Shabbat Chanukah: Zechariah 2:14-4:7.