Shabbat Shalom: Two Divided Streams
By: Itai Divinsky
Community Israel Emissary (Shaliach)
In her poem “The New Year,” Emma Lazrus writes:
“In two divided streams the exiles part,
One rolling homeward to its ancient source,
One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.
By each truth is spread, the law unfurled,
Each separate soul contains the nation’s force,
And both embrace the world.”
So many people ask me to summarize the experience of being a Shaliach, to distill one thing that I will take with me. I believe that today I understand the words that Lazrus wrote over 140 years ago in a way I could not have understood them just four years ago. Today, I see that “truth is spread” by Jews in Israel and the diasporas, and that each “contains the nation’s force”. This is it, the idea that we are indeed “two divided streams”, and yet, just like the many streams of Colorado we all emanate from the same source. We are different in so many ways but we each carry our own part of the Jewish nation. It is not always easy to accept our different interpretations of what it means to be Jewish, and we don’t always remember there are many paths towards Jewish belonging and none of us holds the one key to it. And yet, the many dialogues between Israelis and Jewish Americans I’ve had the honor of facilitating in these 4 years have left me very optimistic. When we meet each other, something magical happens. The differences between us are put aside in favor of a sense of togetherness, a togetherness that we know in our bones is real. That sense of togetherness will stay with me and my family forever. That is the biggest gift this community has given us.
This weekend we will celebrate Shavuot here and in Israel. This holiday is one of the best examples of how our Jewish focus is sometimes very different. Here, the focus at synagogues will be celebrating the receiving of the Torah. For my community in Israel, the focus will be on celebrating the goodness we receive from the land of Israel. I don’t think it’s hard to imagine why our traditions around this holiday grew in different directions. The differences between the streams contribute to the richness and beauty of Jewishness.
After four years serving as your Shaliach, I can say that I feel at home in these “two divided streams” and I hope that all of you have the opportunity to experience that feeling, like my family and I have these past four years.