Arlene Goldbard’s Talk to the Community after Kol
Tomorrow, we consider the story of Jonah, who got his orders straight from God—to go to Ninevah and proclaim judgment for its wickedness (Jonah 1:2)—and still tried to evade them. The midrash suggests that Jonah had previously made himself unpopular by proclaiming God’s judgment on Jerusalem; when God relented and saved that city, he became known as a false prophet, an experience he did not want to repeat. Our tradition contains many tales in which people receive clear, direct Divine instruction, and almost as many in which they try in vain to refuse the assignment. Even Moses, when God commanded him to lead the people out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10), demurred five times, saying he is not qualified, that someone else should be sent. Today, we don’t receive these transmissions so clearly. There are frightening upheavals and loud competing noises, inside our heads and outside, but it is still possible to tune into the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12). I hear it saying that the conditions in our world require wide-awake people whose desire is to bring light into their own hearts and into the world. To support ourselves in fulfilling this desire, we need to do what our High Holy Days theme says: practice love, build holy community. We need a place to sit and stand together and speak aloud words of radical amazement, gratitude and determination, giving each other heart. We need a place where people can receive us in our wholeness and brokenness and perceive the potential we yearn to realize. Our tradition tells us that we each have a special, irreplaceable task in bringing holiness into the world. On Erev Rosh HaShanah, I compared us in our uniqueness to the diverse substances—precious metal, colored linen, wood, skins and oil—needed to create the holy mishkan, the sanctuary in the wilderness. In two places, Micah (Micah 6:8) and Devarim (Deuteronomy 10:12-13), this question is posed: “What does God require from you (may-imkha)?” The Slonomer Rebbe asked why the last phrase is needed: It says, davka, from you! Because it is by means of the unique root of each of our souls and our personal tendencies, combined with the specific era and situation in which we find ourselves, that we will be able to draw near to HaShem. For if we lack personal responsibility for our world or lose touch with our particular task and purpose in life, we are like travelers who get lost on the journey and forget their destination and because of this, will never reach their goal.1 Like Jonah, like Moses, when we hear the still, small voice, other voices may arise that say, “No, I’m too busy for that. I don’t want to get involved.” But the amazing truth is that you can get involved in the Aquarian Minyan in exactly the right way for you, offering exactly what you need to do for your soul, your time and situation—nothing more and nothing less—and through that offering, discover yourself through the practice of love in spiritual community.
1. Shalom Noach Bazovsky of Slonom (1911-2000), Netivot Shalom, Volume 2, Chapter 6, this translation by Rabbi Tirzah Firestone.