Rabbi's Message: October 2015

Rachel Gurevitz
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

It is a Torah for Life

As October begins we head toward the last of the festivals of the New Year – Simchat Torah. We dance, we celebrate, we unroll the scroll and reacquaint ourselves with its’ contents. How can each and every one of us make Torah a real, living, breathing part of how we navigate life and our world?

Every time I sit down with a new bar or bat mitzvah student, we talk about the opportunity and the responsibility that we give them on the day that we celebrate reaching the age of 13 to teach us some Torah. Each of us has Torah to teach. Torah literally means ‘teaching’. So the deeper question is, what is our Torah? What can we reflect upon and share about something we have observed about life and issues that are crucial to our well-being? The Torah is our foundation – we use it as a starting place so that what we are thinking about and doing today is connected to a sense of heritage and continuity with the millions of Jews over the centuries who have also asked questions and explored the surface and the deeper messages of the Torah to help find answers.

One of the principles of Reform Judaism is a commitment to lifelong learning. For each of us, when and where that happens may be different at different times in our lives. Busy parents with young children may not feel able to take time for themselves to attend a traditional adult ed class, but they have opportunities to learn at family events with their children, such as our new monthly Gesher program for families with 6th graders. Some have signed up for our Reform movement’s ’10 minutes of Torah’, where you can receive a daily email on a different aspect of Jewish learning, or just choose the ones of greatest interest (sign up at http://www.reformjudaism.org/sign-receive-ten-minutes-torah ). Some may join us for our new Chai Mitzvah venture, for a monthly class for adults on aspects of contemporary life explored through the lens of Jewish values. Some may decide to celebrate the decision to take a further step in learning as an adult through our Adult B’nei Mitzvah program beginning in January 2016. Those available during the day might join me with other local clergy for our interfaith lunch and learn series that takes place 4 times a year at The Willows community room (beginning November 12, 12pm). All of your clergy and cantorial soloists also teach at our Central MA Torathon learning celebration – this year on November 14, 5-10pm at Beth Israel, Worcester. We’ll be kicking off that evening with a very special musical commemoration of Debbie Friedman’s 5th yarzheit. And there will be more as the year proceeds – lifelong learning is a central component of what we offer to adults as well as to our youth and our teens through our successful Chai School program.

Rabbis need to continue their education too. Both Rabbi Eiduson and I take time each year to deepen our knowledge and skills to bring back to the congregation. This Fall I will be continuing my participation with CLAL as a mentor on a leadership program that affords me the ability to receive training from Harvard scholars. I have also been selected as one of 10 rabbis in the country for a new CLAL fellowship called LEAP. I will be attending four 2 day seminars at the Katz Institute for Advanced Jewish Studies at UPenn. Our goal is to translate some of the cutting-edge scholarly work of researchers there into accessible and engaging learning and programs for our communities. This is something I look forward to sharing with all at B’nai Shalom.

Torah is a tree of life - take a hold, climb onto a new branch, and come check out the view with us!

Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz

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