“What’s the one thing you want us walking away with from tonight’s visit?” asked a visitor last week from our local Greek Orthodox Seminary and College. I thought for a few minutes before I answered her great question. Then I said, “The Bible’s aim isn’t to generate a righteous person. It’s to grow righteous communities.”
From the dawn of civilization, being part of a larger and more lasting community has been the aim. Fitting-in didn’t merely help us survive as a species, it also helped us flourish.
If, as they say, all politics are local, then all theology is personal. But being personal was never meant to make it solitary. Author Jane Howard once said, “Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” Bottom line: self-improvement is much more than a do-it-yourself endeavor.
I know how much I depend upon others to help me make get-togethers between my soul and its source feel faith-warming. Our community, like so many others, offers numerous daily opportunities to learn, celebrate, and serve.
We long to do deeds that outbeat the finality of the human heart. So we pray, “May the words of my mouth and the contemplations of my heart be in keeping with your will, my dear God” (Ps. 19:15).
As we enter the New Year 5784, there’s a lot of noise and confusion out there. As we do our best to make our way, it behooves us to join our willing hearts and hands with those of well-meaning others.
There’s a particular Psalm we pray during these Ten days of Repentance. It features an odd repetition that relates to watchmen awaiting the arrival of dawn. “My soul longs for you, more than the watchman at the gate longs for morning, more than the tired watchman at the gate longs for the flicker of dawn” (Ps 130:6). Indeed, self-made light is often too dim.
May we discover another way to say Shana Tova this year: Good morning 5784.