Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Force (of Jewish Community) Awakens


From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:

A Message From Our President

Dr. Lance Strate

The Force (of Jewish Community) Awakens

If Hillary Clinton can end her closing remarks at the December 19th Democratic Party primary debates with, "May the force be with you," then I think, or at least hope, that I can get away with using the new Star Wars movie as a launching pad for my column. And as we come to the end of the secular year and feel that sense of renewal that we experience every January 1st, let us indeed make this a time for the force to awaken, the force of Jewish community.

As it exists in the Star Wars films, the force, of course, is not part of Jewish spirituality, although the idea that all living things are connected, all part of a mystical union, is certainly consistent with a Jewish sensibility. After all, we hold life as our highest value (as well as the basis of our toasts—L'Chaim!). In our religious tradition, all life is connected because all life is a part of God's creation, all of us creatures created by the Creator.

Whether you believe in our traditional understanding or not, I think we can agree that there is something at once humbling and ennobling about this way of viewing the world, and viewing ourselves. And it points to a source of strength and growth that we all can draw on, our connection to the force. Our version of the force may not give us the power to levitate, or shoot lightning from our fingertips, or battle with a lightsaber, but it does serve as a source of education and enlightenment that cannot be found anywhere else, and as a source of community and communion with something greater than ourselves.

We may not be able to be a part of events that occurred, "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," but our tradition maintains that all of us were in fact present millennia ago when God spoke to Moses and all Israel at Mount Sinai. And we certainly are a part of a living tradition that stretches back to the very beginnings of civilization.

We may not be able to be Jedi knights, but we can be Jewish knights, by supporting our shul, participating in our congregational activities, being a part of our synagogue, being present here at Adas Emuno.

And we may not be called on to oppose the dark side of the force, but there surely is enough darkness in the world, and our congregation can serve as a source of light, a center for ethical practice and teaching, for social action and tikkun olam. Just like the characters in the Star Wars movies, we all must choose between the light and the dark.

I think it is safe to say that there is nothing that runs counter to Jewish teaching or Jewish faith in saying, May the force be with you! But it is good to also find the time to say to one another, May peace be with you! In other words, to join together at Congregation Adas Emuno, and say to one another, Shalom!

May the force of Jewish community be with you!

[For more on a related theme, see our previous post, Religion and Space Travel .]


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