Friday, November 20, 2020 /4 Kislev, 5781
Parashat Toldot Genesis 25:19–28:9
“Before the pandemic, I didn’t say ‘hi’ to my neighbors when I passed them on the street,” explained Los Angeles native Isabel Adler. “But like so many things, neighbor-to-neighbor relations changed in March, when LA’s stay-at-home-order went into effect. Almost immediately, our neighborhood started to become a community.” Isolation from family, growing need for community support, a cessation of many activities led neighbors to take the time to do what they hadn’t before — to get to know one another.
If you have been friends with your neighbors for decades, you are a lucky few. One 2019 study showed that 75% of adults weren’t friends with any of their neighbors. Fortunately, these numbers have changed during the pandemic, as we checked in on, shopped for, conversed with our neighbors. As Robert Hall explains in his book In This Land of Strangers, “Relationships are the most valuable and value-creating resource of any society. They are our lifelines to survive, grow, and thrive.”
God picked Abraham and Sarah to be the Jewish people’s founders for an important reason — they kept their tents open on all sides, welcoming everyone into their lives. A few weeks ago, our Torah portion told the story when Abraham saw strangers walking by, who responded by running out of his tent, and inviting them to rest and have some food. Abraham and Sarah teach us how important it is to get to know those around us. This week’s Torah portion, “Toldot,” speaks to how these traditions are passed to future generations. Isaac re-digs the wells of inspiration and wisdom that his father Abraham once created. Through them, he becomes a shalshelet hakabbah, a link of tradition so that we could one day inherit its wisdom.
As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, we are disappointed that the holiday season will be different from what we hoped and that we still cannot hold in-person events at the temple. We can’t control that reality, but we can use this opportunity to build relationships with our neighbors — both those who live next door and those from the temple who live closer to us than we might have realized.
This Saturday night, our temple is spearheading a new program called Neighborhood Connections. We have mapped out the locations of community members into 28 distinct neighborhood pods. Some of the people in your pod you may know quite well, and others you might not have had the chance to get to know. At 7 pm, we hope you will join TBE on zoom for a short ceremony marking the end of Shabbat, followed by time to socialize with neighbors with whom you share something important in common, a connection to TBE. Feel free to invite friends; the more, the merrier.
Through Neighborhood Connections, we hope to follow Abraham and Sarah’s legacy of opening our tents and transforming strangers into friends.
Rabbi Cassi Kail