Earlier this month, it was Chanukah that added brightness to our community. On Friday, December 11, our Religious School students and faculty presented these thoughts about light:
We are a light to others…
- when we help someone.
- when we are honest and caring.
- when we give without being asked.
- when we cheer someone up.
- when we create community.
- when we bring happiness to another otherwise sad person.
- when we are loving and involved with others.
- when we make someone feel welcome.
- when we make people feel good about themselves.
- when we say kind words and make people laugh.
- when we give wisdom, a listening ear, joy and hope.
Over the last couple of days, I visited a congregant in an assisted living facility. We spoke for a few moments, and then I read the prayer of hope from the end of the service and we sang "Bayom hahu" together. It definitely brought tears to my eyes to see how a worship melody offered such a strong, enduring memory.
It was an honor to be one of the Temple members who served breakfast at Camp Hope on December 25. It meant rising very early, but it was very worthwhile. We are commanded by our tradition to be eager to perform a mitzvah. I recited the blessing for community service as we began: "Blessed are You, Eternal One, our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who made us holy with commandments and commanded us to occupy ourselves with the needs of the greater community." I engaged one man who had come to eat in conversation about scripture and its application to modern events. He and others who came to partake in the meal expressed their thankfulness for the light and kindness we had brought to their day.
Then came Shabbat. On what is a major holiday for the general community, we had over 30 people of all ages gathered for worship, including extended family members of some of our congregants who were visiting from out-of-town. There is a point where we reach a critical mass in the way in which our voices come together for reading and singing. We had that on Friday, December 25 (as well as at our Family Shabbat on December 4 and our Shabbat Chanukah service on December 11). Each person who joins in participating in the service adds to our collective sound. There are times when that sound approaches the beauty of Las Cruces sunsets or the peaceful nature of the scene of snow upon our landscape. On Shabbat morning (December 26), a number of guests and a core of regulars brought us well over a minyan. That special sound returned, and the conclusion of our worship gave us a chance to speak at length with our visitors (who will return to Las Cruces soon). We then went outside to see the first snowflakes begin to fall.
On December 21, 15 congregants and guests gathered for the first session of our series devoted to Rabbi Dayle Friedman's book, Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older. Each person was asked to tell why he or she was attending that night. Their comments and questions all reflected an ongoing search for meaning in our lives:
- How can I remain optimistic and cheerful?
- How do I make the future more welcome?
- How do I become wise? How do you tell your grandchildren what they need to know?
- Learning Jewishly has given me great strength. How can continued learning give me even greater strength?
- How do we learn to move on to the next level of life, whatever that might be?
- How can I continue to be a positive journeyer?
- How do I develop more spirituality in a Jewish framework?
- Having a purpose is the key to living longer.
- How can I continue to sustain and redefine my purpose in life?
There is so much for us to learn to deepen our knowledge and continue along a path to fulfilling our own purpose and personal mission. We may accomplish those goals through travel, writing, artistic pursuits, reading, and individual study and prayer. My participation in the national conferences that I choose to attend enables me to keep Temple Beth-El connected with the greater Jewish world and to bring back new ideas about how congregants of all ages can generate a special Jewish spirit in the course of study, worship, celebration, community programs and social gatherings. I am grateful for those opportunities to seek new wisdom that can assist us in fashioning meaningful moments that can leave indelible impressions upon our lives.
Sunsets and snow scenes tend to remain with us, as our minds engage in their own type of "photography" to preserve images of beauty. May we do what we can, as partners in Jewish life, to recreate such beauty in our words, in our wisdom, and in the work we do for the betterment of our community.