The Jewish calendar requires imagination.
More than spiritual or intellectual insight, our calendar of holy days first requires of us a sense of imagination. The seder table is filled with tools to help. The charoset-bricks, the salt water tears, the open door for Eliyahu the Prophet. Children and adults of every age delight in the fact that we are all written into the story. We are all necessary players in the dramatic narrative.
The spring season continues with many holy days of imagination. Children and adults of every age are still needed; each one of us has a part to play in the unfolding narrative of the Jewish People.
On Yom HaShoah we are witnesses. Ours is the last generation to hear first-hand testimonials from survivors of the Shoah. When Holocaust deniers and revisionists are growing in influence, witnessing is a serious responsibility. I encourage parents and grandparents to consider when their children are old enough to be trusted with this mitzvah.
On Yom HaZikaron, the day to commemorate the fallen soldiers of Israel, we can’t help but imagine “What if?” What if the defenders of Israel had not made such sacrifices? What if any one of those wars between Israel and her neighbours had gone differently? What if Israel’s leaders did not also fight for peace? And the ultimate challenge of imagination: where do we go from here? This season we are blessed to hear from Israel’s Consul-General Galit Baram and Professor Gabi Ben Dor. They are professional analysts of the dream of Israel.
Some remember when the modern state of Israel was born sixty-nine years ago. Many of us depend on a keen sense of imagination. Yom HaAtzmaut comes to help us celebrate that moment of euphoria for world Jewry. With Israeli food and wine and a virtual tour of the treasures of the Israel Museum we will celebrate the delights of today’s Israel. All congregants who have travelled to Israel in the last year are invited for a special aliyah to the Torah on April 29, the Shabbat before Yom HaAtzmaut. We and Consul General Baram wish to honour your commitment.
And for those who hear the call to return to the Land of Israel, I invite you to travel with fellow congregants, with fellow Torontonians and with me. In celebration of its 100th anniversary, Toronto’s UJA is hosting a community-wide mission to Israel this fall. The benefits of a community-wide trip are many. We will have access to some of Israel’s leading figures and teachers. There will be two “track days” when you get to choose your own area of interest. Thanks to generous donors, there are subsidized rates for first-time travellers to Israel and also for travellers 45 and younger. Come by the Information Session on May 1 and learn more about it. It would be wonderful to travel together with you in the renewed land of our ancestors, where the greatest asset of all is imagination. And if you aren’t able to walk the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, come join in our annual Walk with Israel.
These are the early days of The Omer, when we count our steps from the shores of the Red Sea to the foot of Mount Sinai. Shavuot does not have the symbols of the Pesach seder table. Shavuot relies entirely on imagination. We stand to our feet when the Ten Commandments are chanted. We reenact the moment of receiving Torah amidst the smoke and thunder by the rocky mountain. And we recall our initial response to the invitation. We said in one voice: “Na’aseh v’Nishmah.” “We will do and we will understand.” (Exodus 19) By keeping these holy days of commemoration and celebration we know where we come from, we know to Whom we belong, and we can boldly imagine where might go from here — together.