Using Individual Strengths to Build Community

Dear Ezra Community, 


I love and feel very held and supported by the Jewish calendar. There is something about its ebb and flow that helps me to feel like I am part of a process and that I know where I am going. This is just one of the many reasons that I love my job and its setting. I also find that the calendar, its holidays and special observances are so applicable to our own lives and feel extremely lucky to have this framing and structure in my life. 

We are now in the period of time between the holidays of Purim and Pesach. Often considered one of the busiest times of year for Jewish educators, these weeks come with their own structure and special Shabbatot to guide us. This shabbat is Shabbat Parah, the third of the four special Shabbatot leading up to Pesach and the Maftir (additional reading) deals with the practice of the parah adumah, or red heifer. The parah adumah’s ashes would be combined with water to ritually purify someone who came into contact with the dead. The reason for this being mentioned at this point in the calendar is to give people the chance to get purified leading up to Pesach, since someone who is impure would not be able to eat from the Pascal sacrifice. 

Even though we no longer have a Temple and our worship is focused around prayer and learning, I think that this text has a lot to teach us. It beautifully captures one of the challenges of community that can also be one of its biggest strengths. Communities are made up of individual participants, each with their own needs and responsibilities, but each person also contributes to the full group and the group also has responsibilities towards the individuals. Often, there are tasks and responsibilities that we must fulfill in order to be able to reap the full benefits of our society. 

While our preparation for Pesach today may also look a little different, I believe that this is a time of year where we can also focus on where we are holding right now. We have an opportunity to use these weeks to check in with ourselves, our families and loved ones and set goals for ourselves moving forward. While I’m personally focused on (and anxious about?) the cooking and cleaning aspect, I’m also thinking about the other things that I need to do to prepare to lead an engaging seder and how excited I am to be around friends and family after two years of very different looking Passover experiences. 

I’m also incredibly excited to be (back!) at Ezra for these pre-Pesach weeks and to get to join in the preparation and planning. Some of my fondest Ezra memories are from being tutored by older students to lead parts of the Seder, and then later having the ability to pass on what I learned to students younger than myself. The Seders are also great opportunities for the home and dinner table to become an experiential classroom and we are looking forward to being able to share our student learning with our community.

Wishing you and your loved ones a Shabbat Shalom and a restful weekend,