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Weekly Bulletin

Week of August 7th 2020

When people ask me where I am from (confession: between having a German born father, a Scottish born mother and growing up in New York my accent I am sure leaves many confused) the question itself is a way of figuring out who I am.

But that only answers a part of the riddle. So, you’ve managed to locate me geographically but deeper inquiry demands a deeper question: what are you? The answer to that is a mix of the ethno-religious.

For the Jews the question can follow the same track, but the answers aren’t simple but this upcoming Holy Day of Shavuot – one of my most favourite! – is an attempt at providing that answer.

So, here goes: where are we from?

“…the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai saying…”

Shavuot tells us we left Egypt but we come from the wind-blown wilderness of the desert. It was there, in that setting, where we were to blossom from. The ancient rabbis taught the desert from all other places to prove the point if the Torah and a people could emerge from a place of nothingness, how much more so in a world of comfort and plenty?

And who are we?

The traditions of Shavuot make it clear who we are. It is in the message we tell ourselves generation after generation: that we are not a chosen people but a choosing people. We are asked to read, study, converse on Torah. We do it because by choosing a wisdom borne from millennia of human struggle, by holding an identity that often would prove to be a worldly burden but a divine gift, by choosing not just to be Jews but to be Jewish we affirm our belief in the supremacy of the things we cannot see, of the beauty of blessings invisible to the eye, and the surety this great civilization will not disappear from my life.

Chag Sameach

Aaron Flanzraich
Senior Rabbi, Beth Sholom Synagogue
Toronto, Ontario

Quarterly Bulletin

 
Fri, 7 August 2020 17 Av 5780