As I sit here days before our students will re-enter the building for an exciting year I can’t help but become giddy with anticipation over the amazing learning, growing, and fun to come. What makes Levine Academy a special place is that we are truly a community. We are a place that supports one another, that celebrates and comforts one another, and learns together. This is a Kehilla Kedosha, a community of holiness.
Our parshah this week, Eikev, teaches us in many different ways how to build this community. It begins by asking us to make the choice whether or not we will live according to God’s laws. If we make the “wise” choice, we will be blessed, we will increase love in the world. Adhering to these laws means, at a basic level, remembering to say please and thank you. On another level, it means remembering that we are a part of something bigger.
These laws test us and challenge us to have faith no matter our hardships. The text in chapter 10, verse 12 reminds us that God can demand of us to keep Kosher or give tzedakah, but God can only ask us to love and revere God and one another. That is to say that “everything is in the power of Heaven except whether a person will choose to revere God.” (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 33b). Reverence and obedience are perhaps the only virtues we cannot learn by imitating God because God has no one to revere or obey. We cannot be compelled to be good because the decision must be totally under our control.
Each of us has a choice as to how we act in a Kehillah Keodsah, how we work to make our community holy. Throughout our coming year, we will be exploring this concept by looking at Kehillah (community), Derech Eretz (respect), Shalem (completion/wholeness), and HaMakom (God as “the place” of our universe). These four elements make up the basis of what it means to be a holy people.
Our parshah this week ends in chapter 11, verse 22 by asking that we all walk in God’s ways. The best way to walk in God’s ways is through acts of compassion and kindness. I look forward to you joining me on this walk, a walk that might seem uphill at times, and might be a breeze at others. But walking together, we can learn and work to make our community at Levine a model of holiness.
This too is Torah: Winning Olympic medals seems to be the goal of the Olympic games, but our parshah will teach us otherwise. Chapter 7, verse 25 teaches us that we must not covet the silver and gold on idols, lest we become ensnared in the idea of them. So too we must remember that while winning silver and gold medals is an amazing accomplishment, the journey to get there teaches us more than any medal will. Take your mark, get set and let’s enjoy the journey of another year together.