Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 32

The Power of Three!

September 15, 2020

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope this letter finds you doing well and in good health.

We are busy with preparations for the High Holy Days and excited that they are almost here! The services will be great and we are honored that you will join us and support our spiritual community.

As you may imagine, having served as both Hazzan and Rabbi, as well as being a professor in a Jewish school, it is not uncommon for folks “in the profession” [whichever one of those it may be] to check in with each other during this time of year.

If one is in the clergy, they are busy reviewing services, writing sermons, preparing uplifting music, and connecting with their congregants.

If one is in the field of education, they are busy setting up lectures, organizing classes, registering students, and rewriting curricula.

While it has been a very busy time for me, I couldn't help but realize that this will be my third High Holy Days with our congregation. So, while catching up with some colleagues recently, when they asked me how my experience at the synagogue has been, I told them, “The first year, I had the opportunity to serve as Hazzan and lead the congregation in melody and enthusiastic prayer. The second year, I had the opportunity to serve as both Rabbi and Hazzan, and additionally share words of Torah and uplifting Jewish inspiration. And now, for my third High Holy Days: Nobody is coming to the shul!!!!

While this is, of course, tongue in cheek humor, it made me think about the power of three.

There are a variety of ways in which "three" represents strength for our communities:

First, three represents intentionality in Jewish tradition. We shake the Lulav three times in each direction. We shovel three times at a burial. We pour water over our hands three times during the ceremonial Al Netialat Yadayim (ritual washing of the hands before eating bread). We take three steps backward and forward entering the presence of God for the Amidah.

Second, three signifies spirituality, completeness, and stability in Jewish tradition as represented by the three Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and the three pilgrimage festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Three also represents the wholeness of peoplehood, namely our three tribes of Kohen, Levi and Yisrael, that together form the entirety of the Jewish nation.

Third, three represents the exclusivity of our peoplehood and God, committed jointly to remember and learn from the past, committed to engaging ourselves in the present, and committed to planning for a beautiful life in the future.

Finally, this year, the number three will represent the collaboration of Rabbi Stern, Cantor Zim and me. But, most importantly, the three will represent the idea of “you, me, and us.”

May the year ahead bring us all blessings, threefold over!

With love and blessings,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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