November 12th, 2021 | 8th of Kislev, 5782 | Vayetzei וַיֵּצֵא
Dear Beit Rabban Community,
This week I saw my first off off off Broadway show since the beginning of the pandemic! Our Anafim (third grade) class scripted, designed and performed a limited engagement puppet show based on their study of Parashat Vayera, specifically the story of the three visitors who come to Avraham and Sarah’s tent bearing the hilarious news of an imminent pregnancy. They weaved together textual references and their own midrashic interpretations to bring the story to life. The performance was stellar, and I can’t wait to read the reviews this weekend in the Times.
After the show, parents and students enjoyed shared chevrutah learning, specifically looking at the passages describing Avraham’s pace in response to these visitors:
וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּה֙ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֔ים נִצָּבִ֖ים עָלָ֑יו וַיַּ֗רְא וַיָּ֤רׇץ לִקְרָאתָם֙ מִפֶּ֣תַח הָאֹ֔הֶל וַיִּשְׁתַּ֖חוּ אָֽרְצָה
Looking up, (Avraham) saw three men standing near him. As soon as he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them and, bowing to the ground
I have been thinking about that famous tent in the middle of dessert: the visitors and the tent dwellers; the well known (but difficult to source) tradition that Avraham and Sarah’s tent was open on all sides; and the image of Avraham waiting at the entrance in the heat of the day poised to jump at the opportunity to welcome. Like every aspect of the Torah, this story reads differently depending on the circumstances of our lives at any given time.
At this moment the lens through which I read Torah is affected by my worrying about our community. I am worried about various members of our Beit Rabban community who are going through difficult times- illness, loss, unwelcomed transitions. I am thinking about some students who are struggling in ways that appear to be connected to the pandemic. I am thinking about teachers, in our school and beyond, who have worked so hard through impossible circumstances and are just so tired. I am thinking about parents who have been holding it together for so long and are still holding it together. I am thinking about my personal community in Riverdale- we lost a friend this week named Jessica Hirsch who was simply too young to die. This is a lot. And, I am sure that each of you reading this email has their own list.
And I keep asking myself, how do I open my tent in a way that actually helps people. How do I wish people would open their tents for me? What does it mean to be a community where we catch each other in those times of wandering in the desert to provide sustenance, to run out and proactively offer authentic, helpful offerings that make others feel less lonely in their travels.
How do we do this when we are all weary from our own lengthy wanderings, when we are depleted ourselves?
Clearly, I don’t have the answer to this question. I do not even have helpful advice. What I do have is inspiration from the people around me who I see doing this. The many Avraham and Sarahs in our community. This week I was inspired by so many people take care of others. Friends supporting friends manage very particular needs and organizing others to do the same. Community members simply showing up, even when there is nothing “to bring” but their presence. Colleagues rallying to the aid of other colleagues managing unexpected life twists. My own co-workers approaching me with undeserved generosity just because they know I need it.
This is community: a place where we inspire each other to take care of each other. A place where we do not wait for someone to knock on our door and articulate their need, but rather run out of our tents just like Avraham and welcome someone else in; whether it is with a meal, an “I’m thinking about you,” or a little extra benefit of the doubt.
Wishing all a restful and rejuvenating Shabbat,