10 April 2010
Omer 11: Plurals
Omer Day Eleven
Last night at Shul after counting out the 11th day of the Omer at services, a member walked up to me and asked if we had hidden a key in the challah. I had only vaguely heard of the tradition before and could shed absolutely no light on the subject. But he went home and sent over this link, a nice explanation of the Shlissel Challah.
My drash on Friday night was one small portrait of my vision for a pluralist Reform synagogue. I used the example that on Friday we had two brises at CBE, both of whom for two new families in the community who plan on being actively involved in the synagogue, though each have many Orthodox relatives. In musing about the supposed inter-denominational conflicts in Judaism, I mentioned that most brises are conducted by Orthodox mohels and what an opportunity it is to create interdenominational dialogue around the notion of Covenant and peoplehood when multiple expressions of the People are present. I believe this deeply. And believe even more strongly that the future of many synagogues depends upon their ability to be open Jewish centers for those seeking a connection to Jewish life regardless of affiliation. Working in the pluralistic setting of Hillel for seven years and teaching for the past three summers on the Bronfman Youth Fellows program really proved it.
The sense of multiple perspectives and approaches is actually inherent to Jewish study and expression. Reform maintains its relevance to me in its openness to interfaith families; to gays and lesbians; to an equal role for women in leadership; a critical understanding of the authorship of scripture; and in its undying commitment to social justice. But fundamentally I consider myself to be a rabbi in the Jewish tradition, not the "Reform" Jewish tradition and this walk from Egypt to Sinai for these 49 days offers a daily remind of that truth. I don't find myself searching for a "Reform" answer to the Omer count--simply different Jewish perspectives. Period.
After the first bris, the mohel drashed on the meaning of the upcoming Hebrew month of Iyyar and in his drash, mentioned that God's name--symbolized by two *yuds*--appears in the name of the month (aleph-yud-yud-resh). A young Haredi man attending misunderstood the mohel's drash and told him he had spelled the month wrong. It was an awkward moment. And in the gentlest of ways, the mohel asked me how God's name was abbreviated (I said with two yuds) and the correction was made, by the "Reform" rabbi in an intra-Orthodox disagreement.
The gesture, though seemingly insignificant, was enormous.
A great way to go into Shabbat. Let the Shlissel Key unlock the gates of pluralist sustenance for the people.