Simchat Torah is a component of the Biblical Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret (“Eighth Day of Assembly”), which follows immediately after the festival of Sukkot in the month of Tishrei (mid-September to early October on the Gregorian calendar).
For a community that is already small in normal times, there has been a time of more loneliness during the lockdown periods due to the impact of the Coronavirus.
In some countries, things are allowed to return to normal, while in others, such as Belgium, we are still very cautious and foresee Zoom meetings.
We can imagine that in several countries the communities are still a shadow of what they once were. Getting all the congregants turning up again will also not be so simple, because often people have to travel some kilometres to come to service, and as such shall lose again some time by travelling to and fro.
For many, it will be a matter of readjustment and of having healthy fresh water in the fishbowl again. For many, it is also not so evident to get back in form and in confidence to share some tasks. Some prefer to stay in the shadow, whilst others would not mind being lions leading the troup.
We may question how far we as a community want to feel the collective experience. For months, many of us became accustomed to the private enclosure, and prayer time on our own at home.
Now going to yeshivah demands again some effort people have to bring up after work or daily duties.
After the Covid pandemic, we need retaining walls to carry out our daily work and bring life back to the brewery. For this, big fish are welcome to pull the procession of little fish along in an adventure of reading and study, but also of reflection and argumentation.
Now it may well be that people have come to a point where they want to look further afield and go to places where the sea is deeper but where the fauna is also wider and more abundant.
Do not mind exploring other Jewish communities, even when they may be much further or even out of state.
Who would not love to look for a Jewish or a Jeshuaist community that not only is vibrant and fully egalitarian, but also a Jewish community that is still a moderate-big pond post-pandemic with an existing coral infrastructure?
Those who are able to such larger communities are the lucky ones.
I want to be a smaller fish in this pond. I’d like to grow into a big star Torah-reading fish again. And I’m willing to take on some of those thankless coral jobs for the right community. But mostly, I really just want to feel like a fish again.
But do not be discouraged by the lack of large communities. We must be fully aware that, as Children of God, we will only be part of small communities. It is up to us to bring life into our very small communities. Each of us must bring new oxygen and even though the Covid period is not yet over, we must bring back the taste for more. Sometimes we have to do the digging ourselves to make the pond bigger.
Now is the time to bring out the picks and shovels and build a stage on which we can sing and dance together.
I thought I’d offer a somewhat different take on Fandango’s Provocative Question, as it got me thinking about my preferences and priorities for the Jewish community I want to be a part of, and how they have changed.
I’ve written before about my love for the singing, dancing, energy and celebration of “Big Party Judaism“. I guess this would be a small fish in a big pond model. Even aside from the fun social aspect, I enjoy the spiritual energy of Judaism in a large group of people.
That said, when it comes to having a congregational home, I found myself more at home in the big fish in a small pond model. I gravitated towards communities where I’d play a bigger more active role, say, as a regular Torah/Haftarah reader, vs. a more passive one…
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