Dispatches from the Adult Education Department
Every year, as we count the Omer and Shavuot approaches, I turn up Patty Griffin’s stunning tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., “Up to the Mountain.” Although Griffin was inspired by MLK’s final speech – “I’ve Been Up to the Mountaintop,” delivered on April 3, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the night before he was assassinated – the lyrics always put me in mind of Moses walking out alone to receive the revelation of the Torah on our collective behalf:
I went up to the mountain
Because you asked me to…
Sometimes I feel like
I’ve never been nothing but tired
And I’ll be walking
Till the day I expire…
Some days I look down
Afraid I will fall
And though the sun shines
I see nothing at all
Then I hear your sweet voice, oh
Oh, come and then go, come and then go
Telling me softly
You love me so
The peaceful valley
Just over the mountain
The peaceful valley
Few come to know
I may never get there
Ever in this lifetime
But sooner or later
It’s there I will go…
For many years, when I worked at the Miles Nadal JCC planning the Downtown Tikkun Leil Shavuot, our team tried to create mountaintop moments – joyous learning experiences that lasted until the wee hours of the morning, when we’d arrive, in a state of fatigue and elation, onto the roof of the MNjcc to greet the sunrise. Some of you came along with us for the ride, either for part or for the whole. Our classrooms burst to the seams, teeming with 750 people learning Torah and Talmud or Jewish art and architecture, discussing contemporary social justice issues, singing, and baking cheesecake.
“Mountaintop moments” change something inside of us, shift our perspective and compel us to pray and work for a better world. Like Moses, we reach out to connect with something greater than ourselves and come down from the mountain, inspired and with renewed purpose.
This year, we offer you two chances to connect with the mountaintop as we celebrate Z’man Matan Torateinu, the Time of the Giving of our Torah. On June 4th, we welcome back to Holy Blossom Rabbi Joan Friedman, the first woman rabbi to serve a Canadian congregation (as Holy Blossom’s Assistant Rabbi from 1980-81), to reflect upon the evolution of Jewish law through the lens of Reform Responsa. And later that night, Sinai also returns to Spadina for an in-person outdoor gathering hosted by the Miles Nadal JCC and many of our community partners, at which Rabbi Splansky will be teaching.
I hope to see you at the mountain.
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