(The following is a response, written by long-time and established Minyan member Jake Birnberg, to Rabbi Diane's recent letters to the community. Jake comments through his drosh on this week's Torah portion, Teizaveh, which can be read in Exodus 27:20-30:10.)
I've just had an opportunity to read last week's email from Rabbi Diane Elliott, regarding her retreating for the month of March. Curious as to what is behind this, I went back a bit and read the State of the Rebbe letter. I didn't really know how to respond, but felt I'd like to. What I've come to is a little drash on this week's Torah portion. This week's parshe, Teizaveh, contains an elaborate description of the beautiful priestly garments, from head to toe. What really struck me in it was the ephod, the breastplate that contains the Urim and the Thumim, two stones thought to have been used for divination by the high priest. Urim and Thumim translate to "lights" and "perfections" – "They shall be upon Aaron's heart, when he goes in before Hashem, and Aaron shall bear the judgement of the children of Israel upon his heart before Hashem continually." (Exodus, 28:30) I am actually awestruck by the profound beauty in this. What would it be like to wear on your heart, the light and perfection that exist in each individual and the community as a whole, at the same time you bear the judgement of the people? Its not entirely clear whether the judgement of the people is intended to mean God's judgement of the people, or the people's judgements of God and/or each other. Or, it is their judgements of the priest who wears them?! Does it mean our errors, even in bringing forth our own gifts to the community, the little taints of ego that sometimes may come through, or that sometimes may be perceived? Or, is it simply that, along with the knowledge of the light and perfection of each individual, to also know that person from their place of constriction, of judgement? We [our community - ed.] can sometimes be a whiny bunch, and we have little quarrels that we hold on to for far longer than is worthwhile. I say this, knowing full well of my own participation in being much "smaller" ['small mind", in the Buddhist sense - ed.] than I'd like to be. And, I would like to offer great gratitude to Rabbi Diane, who in my opinion has done an amazing job of holding all of our light, all of our perfection, and all of our judgments and smallness, with such grace as to transform us into a more holy community.
The intent of the garments is for beauty and for holiness. It is a great honor, for the priest. But the word for honor, Kavod, is the same root for the word heavy. I can understand how holding all of our light, all of our perfection, and all of our judgment can get very heavy. And perhaps it is the double meaning that is what makes it bearable: it is something that without a connection to Hashem, without some pretty awesome holy help, it would be a great weight. I'd like to bless our Rabbi Diane that, with Hashem's help, she make what is heavy into a perfect light, and continue to carry it with ease, grace and poise, as she has in the past.
I'd also like to bless Abigail Grafton, our Alter Shoresh, and the council for hiring Marcia Brooks [as Administrative Coordinator, which was advocated by Rabbi Diane – ed.]. I bless us that we can eliminate whatever is keeping us from signing a new contract [with Rabbi Diane – ed.], so that we can eliminate that psychic load from our rebbe. I'd like to extend blessing to all of us in this community, that as a nation of priests, we are also blessed with the ability to always hold each others light, and perfection together with the judgements of [our] lesser selves. And, as in the daily amidah, I bless us that we "come together as one in service of hashem," and let us offer our purity of soul and the strength our bodies and minds to find time and ways to volunteer, that lighten the administrative load, so Rabbi Diane can focus on her holy tasks. And, I bless us all to be able to make time to give to the communal effort of holding ourselves together [sustaining the Minyan – ed.], and keep that Ner Tamid (everlasting light) going. I hereby volunteer an additional one hour-per-month of my time to its highest and best use for the well-being of our Minyan. (This is in addition to my service leadership and event setup.) And, I’d like to bless the community that everyone finds it in their heart (and calendars) to join me in volunteering. Together, it will make a big difference. Marcia, consider me at your service in whatever you to ask.