Learn, Innovate, Move Forward/June 2020
Rabbi Myra Meskin shares some words with BJEP Families, BJEP Alum and the entire Jewish Community as she joins us as BJEP’s Community Director and Spiritual Leader in BJEP’s 54th year.
I want to acknowledge that the events of the last few months have been a difficult time for all of us, and each of us has been affected in different ways. What is heartening though, is that the BJEP community has already had to adapt to new models of learning just to finish out this school year, and yet our overall engagement and attendance didn’t waver.
This is not the first time in Jewish history that we’ve had to adapt our understanding of what it means to be in community together. Actually the entire enterprise of Rabbinic Judaism, established after the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem, was a similar hopeful experiment. After the destruction of the Second Temple, the rabbis were in a similar spot to where we are now. Their physical meeting place was gone, and they were prevented from doing things the way they’d always been done. It was also summer time, and the fourth chapter of Mishnah Rosh Hashanah documents their conversation about how they planned to worship on the upcoming High Holidays. Typically, the Mishnah tells us, the shofar would be blown from the Temple Mount, and Jews could come to Jerusalem to hear its blasts. But now without the Temple, what should they do? Rabbi Eliezer suggested they simply replace the Temple with their new center of learning, in Yavneh, and make that the place where the shofar is now blown. But Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai decreed that the shofar should be blown in every city where there is rabbinic leadership. This is how the rabbis reinvented Judaism, replacing a physical location with the concept of mobile encounters with God.
What the rabbis’ conversation demonstrates is that it’s difficult to make change, and it’s particularly scary to make innovations that seem far afield from what we’re used to. But we can also learn from their example, that in a time where we are forced to innovate, that we can actually work toward building something stronger, that can live into the future. So that is my blessing for us, that we are able to capitalize on this moment in our community’s history, and build a program that continues strongly into the future.
Rabbi Myra Meskin’s Desk
June 9, 2020