This past Monday, my teacher Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld was installed as the first woman president of Hebrew College. Some of you may remember her from my installation as the rabbi of Kol Tzedek.
In her remarks, she explored the deep grammar that opens this week's Torah portion, Lech Lecha. This mysterious alliterative command is often translated as "go forth" or "go to yourself."
To begin, she notes that this curious repetition, Lech Lecha, is written in the singular second person. On the one hand, we must feel personally summoned, connected, called. I am speaking to you, each and every one of you. And yet
on the other hand, why does the journey of the collective begin in the singular? Are we really meant to go it alone?
Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld teaches:
"We're living in a time when so much conspires
To make us feel alone and untethered
In a world that is fractured and frayed.
We are — we must be — witnesses to a deeper truth.
One of connection and compassion.
One of humility and hope."
She concludes by teaching a text from Pirkei Avot:
Eyzehu ashir? Hasameach b'chelko.
Her interpretive translation:
"Who is content?
The one who rejoices in knowing that she is part of a greater whole."
We each are part of a greater. Connected to creation and community, through the air we breath. We are each personally called. But not to some singular task, rather to a greater collective purpose. Let this be the antidote to our despair, our fear, and our shame. May we all know in our bones that we are worthy. And may we have the courage to heed the call, to journey into the unknown in search of a deeper truth.
Rabbi Ari Lev
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.