Cantor Ilan Davidson email@example.com
To paraphrase the late, great, President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what you can do for your community, ask what your community can do for you.”
This past month, as we lay my dear father-in-law, Cyril, to rest, I was struck, as I often am, by the outpouring of love from our community. Now I know what you are thinking, “Of course, you are the Cantor!” But, time and time again, I witness how this community rallies for both consolation and celebration. Often, I see people at a funeral or shiva minyan who don’t even know the deceased, nor are close with the family. Likewise, there are those (although I’d love to see more) who show up at a family’s b’nai mitzvah service, who have never met the young person or, perhaps, even the parents. We are indeed a community that comes together to support each other, even when we don’t particularly know one another.
Jewish custom supports this outpouring, when it reminds us that it is a mitzvah of hesed shel emet (true kindness) to place earth into a grave. It doesn’t say that you need know the individual to fulfill this mitzvah, only that you be present and perform the act. I would argue that anytime we support a member of our community, without any expectation of reciprocity, we are partaking in hesed shel emet. To all who were present for my family, who wouldn’t allow us to do anything, who supported, provided for, or were simply present in our time of need, we are eternally grateful.
As this New Year of 5780 fast approaches, may we all double our commitment to be present for members of our community, whether they are familiar or not. May we all commit acts of true kindness, being there for each other, not just in times of anguish, but when we see a celebration on the Temple’s calendar of events. May we commit to attending more at Temple Beth El, even when we don’t know if our friends are going, and encourage our children/teens to do the same. And, finally, when we or somebody we know are not sure about joining Temple Beth El or any other Jewish community, may we be encouraged and encourage them, with the paraphrase of JFK and all of the supporting actions that we have been blessed to give and receive because we have CHOSEN to be part of a warm, welcoming COMMUNITY! Shanah Tova Tikateivu – May 5780 be filled with goodness and sweetness, beyond our expectations.