From Rabbi Johanna Hershenson
Throughout the year, I have shared weekly blog posts entitled: Middah of the Month. We have explored middot, Jewish values such as humility, compassion, respect, trustworthiness, and the balance between thoughtful silence and kind speech.
During the month of June, we will explore the Jewish value of Order. We know the Hebrew word for order is seder, as our Seder is a structured meal with particular order of courses that correspond to our telling of the story of our exodus from Egypt.
I think the timeliness of reflecting on the middah of order is exactly the right Jewish value for us to explore. The month of June is when we gather at our annual meeting to elect new leadership, accept a budget to meet next year's anticipated expenses. When we do it right, our annual meeting is also an opportunity to invite all our members to discover where we might like to contribute our energy, time, and particular talents in the year ahead.
R. Salanter (a great Mussar teacher) taught that our ratzon, our desire, is manifest in our seder, our order. I understand this teaching to mean that the desires to which we respond (no matter how many ethical principles we hold dear) are revealed in our daily routines, behaviors in relationship with others, and in our checkbook registers.
Temple Beth Tikvah is what we make it. Our ad hoc leadership transition teams have been preparing our program calendar in advance of our annual meeting so members can clearly identify opportunities to volunteer and contribute to specific events and gatherings on prescheduled dates. We hope that providing opportunities to sign up now will help us all manage all the competing activities and commitments that present challenges later.
If your thing is to open your home to host an informal event, there will be a sign up form for that.
If your thing is to serve on a committee to help facilitate programs around adult learning, ritual and celebration, or social action, there will be sign up forms for that.
If your thing is outdoor events or indoor events, adults only events, or multigenerational events, there won't be sign up forms for that. There will be lists of scheduled events so you can mark your calendar to save the date for events that are appealing to you.
Temple Beth Tikvah, as a Reform congregation, houses all sorts of Jews and all sorts of people. And we are a small community, the interests and curiosities of our members can be reflected in our program with ease.
Havdallah with a Purpose has invited our members to introduce local nonprofit organizations important in their lives to the rest of us, often engaging some of us in new community service trajectories. Havdallah with a Maven has gifted us with the opportunity to begin appreciating and acknowledging the many gifted scholars, professionals, and artists among us and even facilitating new friendships around newly discovered shared interests.
The expansion of our Social Action offerings is another example that illustrates how different members' interests grow our congregation's capacity to impact the greater community. Pet lovers brought an extraordinary volunteer opportunity for children to read to dogs held in the Humane Society to acclimate them to gentle human interaction. Another member's passion for supporting families with young children in which there is a high risk for violence led to Temple Beth Tikvah collecting diapers and some members taking on the role of "godparent" providing in kind support as needed.
What we do as individuals in the name of our Jewish values matters...the question is, do our calendars and checkbook registers match up with what we say is important to us?