We are particularly fortunate in Colorado to have a long and deep connection with Israel. Today, this connection is furthered through multiple organizations and programs. Some of our organizations focus on building projects, infrastructure, and education. Some support Israelis, living locally, integrating them into local Jewish community life. Our focus at JEWISHcolorado is on providing pathways for Coloradans to connect with the people of Israel. Our Israel emissaries, our Zeff IST program, and our many other efforts are intended to draw people together through the dynamism of modern Israel, strengthening the ties between people of Israel and the Diaspora, and creating experiences and conversations on what it means to be a part of a living narrative thousands of years long, and moments new.
I recently spent two weeks in Israel on our Public Officials’ Mission – a trip of our Jewish Community Relations Council that takes elected officials to Israel to experience all that the modern state has the offer. During this trip we were honored to hear from Dr. Donniel Hartman, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute. Dr. Hartman framed two concepts through which to understand the Jewish people and Israel today. He spoke of “being.” Of Israel in the Jewish people’s intuitive sense of insecurity from 2,000 years of wandering, and the real and symbolic significance that Israel provides in ensuring the Jewish people’s ability to exist safely, while pursuing its own destiny. The second concept is of “becoming.” It is this concept that the Jewish people, and Israel today, strives to be better, to make a positive impact on our world, to care for the orphan, the widow, the stranger, to create an equitable and just society.
Last week’s Torah portion, BaMidbar, and this week’s portion, Naso, lend insight into these concepts of being and becoming. The Jewish people’s wandering in the desert continues. In these portions, a census is taken of each tribe, and the formation of the Israelites encampment surrounding the tabernacle is detailed. In this narrative, each tribe is described and allocated a place, and role. Upon entry into the land of Israel, each tribe will be allocated territory and responsibility. A construct for being is provided. And so too is the context for becoming. Each tribe remains distinct and honored. Simultaneously, each tribe becomes part of a nation. Separate and one.
Our expressions of self, as individuals, one among a people, among a nation, are expressed in a multitude of ways. Our Torah reading this week also teaches us that individuals can all assemble as a collective and build community…together.
Rabbi Jay Strear
President & CEO
Please email Rabbi Strear at CEO@JEWISHcolorado.org with comments or questions.