Vort for 2022/5783 Annual General Meeting, Or Shalom

By Rabbi Hannah

Boker Tov 😊

Today is the first day we mind the new parsha, Toldot, for wisdom.

Here is a verse from the parsha that stands out to me for guidance this morning. From Isaac’s blessing for Jacob, Bereshit 27:28 offers: 

וְיִתֶּן לְךָ הָאלֹהִים מִטַּל הַשָּׁמַיִם וּמִשְׁמַנֵּי הָאָרֶץ וְרֹב דָּגָן וְתִירשׁ:

“And May God give you of the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth, abundance of new grain and wine.”

Midrash explains:

God will give, and then God will return and give again.

And RASHI comments:

If we were to become wealthy, we would rejoice for a day or so, but after a while we would become accustomed to it such that we do not fully appreciate what we have.

But if we were to grow in wealth day by day, we would rejoice anew each day. This was Isaac’s blessing to Jacob – that he would not be like those who become wealthy all at once, but that God would provide and then return and provide again; Jacob’s success increasing with the flow of days and years.

RASHI concludes: May God give to you, and then give again. May God give you blessings and give you the means for holding them. 

Our Hassidic teachers take the midrash a step beyond its original intent. 

The Midrash suggests that there are two “givings:” blessing, and its actualization. But our Hassidic Masters add that Isaac’s blessing is for continual appreciation of the wealth that will come Jacob’s way. 

Here is what I derive from these texts for us, today:

Or Shalom has, historically, been a blessing in the lives of so many. In recent years, pre-Covid, the vitality of this community swelled, again, attracting new constituencies of participants and members – families with children, spiritual seekers choosing a Jewish path, Queer community, and more. 

And we have experienced a test and a lull, perhaps, during the height of the pandemic, but the blessing abides and we see the excitement of a return to the preciousness of study round the same table with a consistent group of 20 attending Friday morning Torah Study, 30 adults plus children at this past Friday evening’s Families’ pot-luck, over 40 in the Bayit on Shabbat morning (+ the 20 households still online), a new cohort of 19 in our Living a Jewish Year class, a cohort studying for adult smachot mitzvah, a new cohort of aspiring davening leaders working toward leadership of Shacharit for Shabbat. This, as I experience it, is a renaissance of blessing. God blessing, and blessing again.

And we don’t take it for granted.

How do we “actualize” this blessing? How do we assure that we continually appreciate the blessing that grows with each day of our communal existence?

We look around. We notice newcomers and extend ourselves to learn about them. We inquire as to their gifts and opinions; we open in curiosity to their wisdom. We harness their innovative spirits, embracing new energy and folding new ideas into the fabric and history of this community. 

May there never be a day that we do not recognize and appreciate the sustaining dew of heaven and the nourishing fat of the earth that we are to one another, particularly the abundance of our new grain and new wine. We are, in the totality of our membership, very blessed, indeed. Not blessed all at once, but as it our sages’ understading of Isaac’s blessing, blessed incrementally and by the gift of each member and participant in Or Shalom.

V’chein yehi ratzon.

Taking it into our lives:

  • How do you understand the experience of boredom? How does it arise? What is its origin? How can it be dispelled?

  • What is the opposite of desire? Is it apathy? Might it be appreciation? How do you experience these two sensations (desire and appreciation) – are they mutually exclusive? How do you keep the latter alive even when filled with desire for something else?

  • Why is wealth – material possessions – such a threat to spiritual wellbeing? How do you maintain your balance, and your appreciation of what you have, when bombarded by media messages pressing for ever more consumption? How do you know what you truly need, and when you have what is sufficient? How do you keep your appreciation of your possessions lively?


This entry was posted in Upcoming Events. Bookmark the permalink.