Monday, May 23, 2016

Thoughts on our 45th Anniversary

On Sunday May 22 Kehilat Shalom celebrated its 45th anniversary. These are my thoughts on the occasion:

As a rabbi I generally look to Jewish wisdom when I am called upon to write a message for a particular occasion. If we were celebrating a round number I would turn to Pirkei Avot, which in its fifth chapter gives the significance of every anniversary from twenty all the way up to 100 -- but only in increments of ten.

What is the significance, then, of a 45th anniversary? Gematria is a kabbalistic method of understanding the significance of words based on the numerical values of their letters, since every Hebrew letter has a numerical value. The best-known example of gematria may be the Jewish predilection for making donations in multiples of 18, since 18 is the numerical values of the Hebrew word “chai,” life.

The number 45 yields לב אחד, “one heart.” When we act together for the good of our kehila, our community, our country and our brothers and sisters throughout the world, we act with one heart.

The number 45 also yields איזה טוב ה, “how good is God.” When we act with one heart, we come closer to God and we bring God’s goodness into the world through prayer, through study, and especially through acts of lovingkindness. These are the things which our kehila exists to do, and these are the things that God has created us to do. How good is God when we act with lev echad, one heart.

And finally, the number 45 yields לא זז, “not going anywhere.” As long as our kehila continues to act with one heart and make plain the goodness of God in this world, we are not going anywhere.