From the Rabbi – Birth of Spring / Birth of our People / Birth of our Perpetual Becoming

Vaera 5779
Birth of Spring / Birth of our People / Birth of our Perpetual Becoming

Parashat Vaera often coincides with the beginning of the month of Shvat, the month that contains, at its center, at its fullest moon, celebration of the Hebrew winter equinox. Tu b’Shvat marks the turning of seasons, when sap begins to rise, and almond trees blossom in the Holy Land, signaling the barest beginnings of Spring’s rebirth. This Shabbat morning we’ll herald the coming of Shvat, and as we anticipate the season of rebirth, our Torah portion recounts the birth of Am Yisrael.

Our Deliverance was not an easy one, stressful on Israel, the fetus, and stressful on Egypt, reluctant womb, as well as on Moses (our doula) and God the Deliverer. Our parasha says: “God took you and brought you out from the iron blast furnace,” and midrash adds: “like one who extracts gold from fire without tongs or gloves…”

Indeed, emancipations are, by nature, a hard push, and we are all-the-more proud of our works of liberation because of the effort. Birthing new ideas, ideas that challenge the attitudinal and behavioral status quo, is hard work, work we sometimes resist as we come up against the edge of what is comfortable.

Or Shalom, too, pushes forward, (not toward emancipation, but) toward the frontiers of innovation and relevance and new inclusions. We have recently enlarged our Membership Working Group as it embraces a broadened mandate to help integrate new members and hear the dreams of new constituencies. And we are beginning to convene a task force to evaluate our physical envelope.

To do this work of inward and outward growth, work that stretches us – sometimes to the edge of comfort, we draw sustenance from the beloved traditions we know so well, and we lean into the companionable community we already are. We bathe in our Shabbat davening and sacred chant. We enrich ourselves studying Talmud, the Psalms of our Shabbat liturgy, Jewish history, the Hasidic way of prayer, and, soon, our rituals ensuring dignity in burial and mourning. We deepen our commitment to one another as we re-evaluating our delivery of Gemilut Chesed and administration of our cemetery, to ensure that we serve one another even more generously in times of need. 

These engagements nourish us and ground us as we explore new frontiers, advancing the holy community of Am Yisrael we are always birthing, always becoming. 

May our sap flow; may we flower like the almond in the Holy Land; may we respect the stresses of birth and rebirth as we continually renew and refresh; may the yield of our collaborative creative acts be precious as gold.

Rabbi Hannah Dresner