Al Tifros Min Ha.ibur Al Tishkach O.mat Ha-edah
Al Tarchek Min Hakahal, Kahal Hakodesh na na na na na na na.....
So three words all meaning community and yet all have a different connotation. Since we have been talking a lot about community this past year I wanted to explore these words and what meaning they can have for us.
Rabbi Hillel, in the Pirkay Avot, our book of Ethical Sayings, said al tifros min hatsibur- do not separate yourself ,
from the community.
The word Tzibur refers to any group of people who are gathered in a single place at the same time whose members assemble for a shared purpose for that moment.
When you are in an audience at the movies you are part of a tsibur. If you attend a one-day discount shopping event, or go to a thanksgiving parade you are part of tsibur. These are communities in the minimalist sense.
You can also have an ongoing affiliation with a tsibur without necessarily making a commitment to it
For instance a few weeks ago I was part of the larger East Bay Jewish community when I attended an evening sponsored by the Jewish Federation at Temple Sinai for an event called Standing Together. It was an evening where we were sharing our collective grief and fears over the events that happened in Charlottesville VA.
It felt so much better than sitting home alone. Maimonides tells us that in the sharing of collective grief the individual's grief is assuaged.
When we act collectively as part of a tsibur we are more effective - such as when we collect food and clothing for the local food banks and shelters as we do here at Temple Beth Sholom. And that is true for whatever cause is important to you, be it immigration, education or Israel.
For in that same sentence Hillel says goes on to say: )v'al t'amen b'a.mecha ad yom motecha
Do not trust in just yourself until the day you die.
No one person has all the answers – we are more effective when we join with others because we can build on each other's ideas and inspire each other to new actions.
Al Tiskkach Otsmat Ha-Edah
Don't forget the power of the witnessing community the word Edah comes from the word “Ed” which mean witness.
An edah is a community that has a shared experience of witnessing an event together and where the event has no significance if not witnessed.
Every time we mark a birth, a bar/bat mi\vah, or the setting of a headstone together we are an edah.
In the opening prayer tonight we said V'nislach l'chol adat bnai Yisrael- “we forgive our entire community.” We are witness to each other's mistakes and we are witness to each other's forgiveness.
In a nurturing community no achievement is too small for witnessing if it has significance for you, be it a graduation, or baking your first challah.
It's said at a wedding that when the couple shares the first sip of wine, their joy should be doubled because they share it, and whatever drops of biMerness it contains their troubles should be halved because they share it .
So I invite you all to let us know what is going on in your life. Let us be each other's witnesses so we may double each other's joys and halve each other's sorrows.
Its wriMen in the talmud: when the community is in trouble let no man say “I shall go home and eat and drink and peace be with myself.”
Al Tarchek Min Kahal Hakodesh
But both the Edah and the Tsibur can refer to just one time events. You are in a tsibur if you've gone and prayed at the wailing wall with hundreds of other people who you will never see again.
If you went back east to a wedding you were part of an edah but now you are home and no longer part of that edah.
You could call them “special occasion communities”
A kahal is a tsibur and an edah who have made make a continued commitment to become a unified whole and holy community with a collective identity.
A kahal is a community of people who decide to come together regularly and are consistently in each other's lives.
At TBS, not only do we want to be a tsibur and an edah- we also want to be a kahal, a kahal kodesh - a holy community.
As a Kahal we have a structure that binds us together. We have familiar liturgy, familiar music and a shared history which for us dates back to 1885 and to our beautiful liMle shul.
In the kahal we pray together, we forge deep connections by visiting the sick, providing meals to those in mourning, we celebrate each other’s growth, we take on projects, sometimes we struggle together. We notice when someone is missing.
The members of a kahal do not have to be homogenous to be effective.
Two thousand years ago, Hillel and the rabbis of the Mishnah, had more than 350 serious disagreements over the law that occasionally turned bloody.
They didn’t all pray together. They didn’t all agree on the best strategy for the future of the Jewish people or even how to keep kosher.
During that time you could affiliate with the Pharisees, Sadducees, or Essenes. You could be a Hellenist or a Zealot.
Today many of you here come from different backgrounds. You may have grown up aMending reform , conservative, orthodox, reconstructionist or renewal congregations. You may have come from another faith tradition or no faith tradition. You may identify as a democrat, republican an independent or nothing at all.
So what community was Hillel talking about when he warned against separating oneself from the community?
What we learn from the Talmud is that despite all of their disagreements, “Beit Hillel did not refrain from marrying the children of Beit Shammai and Beit Shammai did not refrain from marrying the children of Beit Hillel.” (BT Yevamot 14a).
The talmudic rabbis understood that we are all part of the big tent of Judaism.
We understand that everyone here is part of our maybe-not-so-big -tent but our tent called Temple Beth Sholom.
Within our tent diversity can be healthy. It challenges our assumptions, and requires us to think more deeply about what we believe. It opens us to new perspectives.
With our diversity we can draw on the different strengths of the individuals to build us up. Some of you are good with computers, some of you are great cooks, others of you are teachers, some of you sing or dance or play instruments. All of these skills are important to us.
A successful kahal knows that there are times when we have to put our differences aside to make sure that our community is a nurturing flourishing and creative community.
In the Torah portion Vayakhel Moses instructs the people to build the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. He asks each person to contribute freely from their heart, from their pockets, and from their abilities, emphasizing that each person has something to give and every contribution was valued.
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who was the chief Rabbi of England for some 20 years tells us that when the Israelites built the Mishkan they stopped complaining. When they first left Egypt they complained 'why should we die in the desert beMer to have died in Egypt. ' They complained about the food, they complained about water. It's only when they built the Mishkan that they were transformed. The differences that divided them seemed trivial in the light of the seriousness of the work that faced the community as a whole.
They were doing something for god and for their community.
This is what our Temple asks of each of you. What can you offer us in the coming year? Perhaps something you haven't offered before. I would rephrase a popular statement and say: Do ask what the community can do for you and do ask what you can do for you community.
The challenge this year is to make each and everyone of us invested in this community. We can't rely on just a few people. We've gone through some rough patches and the need is loud and clear. This is the time for everyone to contribute, for everyone to participate.
One of the things I am suggesting this year is that we form chavurot, loosely translated as friendship groups within our synagogue. These would be groups of people you would join with perhaps once a month on a Friday evening to have dinner and then come to shul together.
The Rabbi and I would suggest monthly topics for you to discuss within your chavurot and when you come to shul you could share some of the your conversations with the rest of the kahal.
I've asked our president to create an on-line form for you to sign up to be part of a chavurah so that you may find others on the list you can join with.
Perhaps there is a committee or a club that you would like to see at the Temple. Maybe a film club, a scrabble club, or a chesed commiMee that would visit those who are sick or housebound. How about a tikun olam commiMee that would engage in social action projects together. What can you make happen?
Again we will create on-line forms for you to sign up to let us know what you are interested in and what you would like to initiate.
And finally: The root of the word Kahal is kol – meaning "voice".
Some of the most powerful moments in a kahal is when we all sing together, when we get out of our heads and into our bodies.
Studies show that singing releases hormones that increase happiness and enhances feelings of trust and bonding. You don't even have to be a good singer to feel these effects.
Singing brings us together and uplifts our spirit.
Singing together is exhilarating and transformative. It takes something incredibly intimate – a sound that begins inside of you and connects you with a roomful of people- many of whom you may not know well or not at all and who otherwise seem entirely different than you.
So let's end as I began with the opening nigun. Listen to your voice and the voices of those around you. Feel how your voice sounds with the voices of the people around you and let us sing:
na na na na na na na.....