Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 151

March 17, 2023 (24 Adar 5783)


Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you well and in good health. Please join us this Saturday morning in our beautiful sanctuary for Shabbat services, which will commence at 10:15am and be broadcast over our regular Zoom link.

Lately, things at the synagogue have been incredibly busy. Seriously, if you blink, you may miss something!

For example, over the next couple of weeks, you are invited to attend our Sunday Morning Torah Study with the Rabbi in the social hall, where we will study the laws of the upcoming Pesach holiday. Additionally, you are highly encouraged to join us for our extraordinarily important Israel Update programs scheduled for this Monday night and next at 8:00pm. Our guests, Ariel Simon (March 20th) and Tamar Meltzer (March 27th) will speak from both a macroscopic and microscopic perspective regarding the tensions in the Holy Land. And last, to add to the tumult, the Hazzan and I, accompanied by the lay leadership, are busily preparing for the upcoming Pesach festival, including a community Seder on the second night.

Friends, this Shabbat, in addition to completing the book of Shemot, we observe Shabbat HaChodesh, one of the four special Shabbatot that precede Pesach. On three of these Shabbatot, we read a stipulated scriptural passage from a second Torah scroll. While two weeks ago Shabbat Zachor asked us to recall our historical adversary Amalek; and last week’s Shabbat Parah reminded us how to overly barbecue and prepare our red heifer cows for purposes of post-mortem ritual purification; this week, Shabbat HaChodesh, reminds us that before we blink, the month of Nisan will begin and Pesach Seders will be upon us!

With that in mind, I am reminded of Canadian author and social scientist Malcom Gladwell, who, in his 2005 best seller, wrote about the concept of BLINK. He refers to our minds as massive internal computers, which engage in rapid cognition. Through instant observation our brains engage in “thin-slicing,” which refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. Ironically, he suggests that rapid cognitions can be a lot better and productive than long, but futile, detailed analyses of situations. Cautious of not oversimplifying, Gladwell acknowledges other variables are interdependent with rapid cognition including emotion, attitude, judgment, and the role of past experiences.

When I consider the upcoming holiday, the tension of its preparation, the busy shul calendar and, most importantly, the upcoming Seders, I am left to wonder, “What is the BLINK of our lives?” That is to say, what is the instantaneous observation, impression, and reaction that an objective onlooker may witness when entering our sacred spaces?

I would imagine that in our shul, a “thin-slice” observation would merit a perception of dedication of volunteers, meaningful prayer, deep learning, active Chesed (acts of loving kindness), and vital outreach. Emotionally, the observer will come away uplifted, encouraged, and duly inspired by the power of many.

Next, I would imagine that in the coming weeks, as we gather for Seder, a “thin-slice” observation would merit a perception of the power of narrative, the ability to remember collective experience, the synergy of symbolism & action, and most importantly, the primacy of relationships, beautified by tradition.

Friends, while the “blinks” imagined above are uplifting, so too, I would argue, are our long-term experiences and commitments to each other. Our community enters the Pesach season with momentum, joy, enthusiasm and, of course, the blessings and Torah. Come and be part of it!

Shabbat Shalom and in advance, a Zissen Pesach,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon.DM
Tel: 201-562-5277

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