We are standing, all of us, in a circle. Spontaneously, we start singing “Lechi Lach,” to our teacher who is leaving. We send our hopes that she continues to “go forth,” that she is a blessing to her new students just as she has been a blessing to us.
We stand together, and we understand that we are each filled with our own gratitude for the many teachers who have changed our lives.
We are standing, all of us, on the first day of school, trembling inside. We await the reports from our children, our grandchildren. How was the first day of school? Is the teacher nice? Did you get the chemistry teacher you wanted? How is your roommate? Did you find your way across the new campus on the other side of the state, the country, the world?
We stand together as adults who care deeply about the future of our children.
We are standing, all of us, at shiva. Facing east, we remember. Our prayers, and those of all who suffer, drift toward Jerusalem. Our siddur assures us, “there is a day and an hour, and a mountain called Zion, and that all of the sufferings will gather there and become song.” We stand together whenever one of us is faced with pain or grief or suffering.
We are standing, all of us, watching billows of black smoke pour out of buildings in New York City and Washington, D.C., and from a field in western Pennsylvania. We don’t have words to express our horror, our fear, our terror. Jews stood together 10 years ago — just as we do this week — and read from the weekly Torah portion:
“Atem Nitzavim — You stand this day, all of you, before the Eternal your God. … I make this covenant, with its sanctions, not with you alone, but both with those who are standing here with us today before the Eternal our God and with those who are not here this day. (Deuteronomy 29:9, 13–14)
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life — if you and your offspring would live — by loving the Eternal your God, heeding God’s commands, and holding fast to God.” (Deuteronomy 30: 19–20)
We stand together today as we did at Sinai, in the wilderness, throughout our history and in all corners of the earth, in times of challenge and in times of celebration, and we heed the words from Torah.
We remember that we have a choice. And so we decide, each day, every day, to encourage and comfort and support one another. We decide, all of us, each day, every day to make life-affirming choices.
We stand together to bring healing, understanding, and compassion into the world. We stand together, all of us.
We are, all of us, part of this eternal covenant, those of us who did not stand before Moses in the wilderness. The ancient rabbinic sages asked and then answered the question, “How can the covenant be entered into by our ancestors be binding on us if we never agreed to it personally?”
All of us were present in soul; all of us accepted and are bound to the covenant.
As we enter the New Year about to begin, we carry this charge with us. And as we stand together in our synagogues, we understand that we choose, each day, every day, to bring blessing into the world.
May your new year be filled with goodness and health and blessing.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)