An Auspicious Time (Shemini 03/26/22)
An Auspicious Time
Do you know that magic moment, that swing in the energy, the turn in the tide when one team starts to take charge of the game? I see some of that March Madness flowing into Manetto Hill Jewish Center right now. It’s the blessing of Parshat Shemini, the power of the number eight, shining on MHJC.
Numbers have much significance in Jewish lore. We see specific numbers repeated throughout our traditions. Here are some examples:
40-The days it rained down during the flood of Noah’s time, the days Moses was atop Mt. Sinai, the years the Children of Israel wandered in the desert, and by Talmudic tradition, the number of days from conception until becoming a human fetus. All forties represent a preparatory period.
10-is the number representing Godliness: ten people form a minyan (creating a space for God), the Ten Commandments, the miraculous ten plagues, and the ten esoteric Kabbalistic Emanations (sefirot).
7-is the number of wholeness and completion. We have the seven days of creation, the seven branches of the Menorah, the seven days of Passover, seven weeks until Shavuot, and seven days of Sukkot.
Our Parsha is called Shemini, Eight. On the Eighth day after the initial assembly of the Tabernacle in the desert, it was officially inaugurated. Eight represents a level above the ordinary, a new endeavor, a higher beginning. When Solomon inaugurated the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the nation celebrated for eight days. Likewise, in the days of the Maccabees, the oil burned for eight days during the Temple’s rededication. Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day following Sukkot, marks a totally new, perhaps even holier, holiday. Brit Milah, circumcision, the act through which we welcome a Jewish boy into the fold of his people, takes place on the eighth day.
Parshat Shemini then welcomes new, auspicious beginnings. Was it a coincidence when on that reading, we had our first big Shabbat morning service in two years? With a Tot Shabbat program, a junior congregation, and regular service all going on concurrently, we had ten times the crowd of our regular attendance. Furthermore, we all joined together afterward, thanks to our president and all the vice presidents (and their families) who jointly sponsored the kiddush.
Moreover, on the previous Sunday, a new model of dues and support of the synagogue was presented to the Board of Directors. Called “Give from the Heart,” it creates more transparency, partnership, and opportunity for all. Other synagogues in Nassau County and across the country have succeeded in implementing this breakthrough method, and I believe we will too. I look forward to embracing old members and greeting new “partners” in our synagogue. That prospect is exciting, but more importantly, it tells me that our leadership understands the need for innovation and is proactive in achieving it.
Just a week and a half ago, we joined together as a congregation to celebrate Purim and read the Megillah. Exactly two years ago on Purim was the last time we gathered, mask-free, as one. We are now in the “Shemini” of time, an opportune period for new beginnings.
Windows of opportunity don’t stay open for long; seeing us take advantage of this moment makes me proud of our congregational leadership and membership. All religious institutions have been challenged in the past few decades. Yet the innate desire for spirituality and a relevant Judaism remains; we will succeed if we’re bold enough to meet our people’s needs. Reading Parshat Shemini, the blessing of new beginnings amidst our synagogue’s creativity and participation, told me we’re on the right path.