We live in a complicated world. It’s far too easy to enumerate all that is wrong in our society. In writing this column, I could have talked about the horrific events in Charlottesville, the disheartening decisions of the Israeli government regarding the disenfranchisement of non-Orthodox expressions of Judaism, or any number of problems and challenges we face every day. And, to be sure, all of those are valid and important topics. But, it’s just as important is to focus on the good in our world.
The morning prayer, Yotzer Or, includes the line, “Ma rabu maasecha, Adonai (how plentiful are your creations, O God).” For the past 19 years, I have had the opportunity to be on faculty at Camp George. Nestled in the beauty of Northern Ontario, it is one of 16 Union for Reform Judaism summer camps across North America. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth, but like so many other Jewish summer camps, its physical beauty is only one aspect or element. Its beauty also lies within the relationships and the opportunities for Jewish growth that exist for the camp participants.
Sometimes we don’t pay as much attention to the opportunities that we have around us. Our Ottawa Jewish community, for example, has amazing resources, an incredible diversity of Jewish expression and experience that creates a very unique and wonderful Jewish context for us to explore and celebrate Jewish life. I am thankful to be living in a city where we come together for many communal celebrations and events. A city whose rabbis have close relationships with each other across the Jewish spectrum, where even if we fundamentally disagree on certain things, we are able to have a sense of relationship, an ability to call each other with questions, and to rely on each other for support.
In just a few weeks we will celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. An important element of our High Holiday traditions is to spend time reflecting on and appreciating those elements in our lives that give us so many blessings – whether it is our synagogue that provides a place to build relationships with each other and God, the Soloway Jewish Community Centre which helps us learn and grow and keeps our bodies healthy, the Jewish Federation of Ottawa that strives to provide for our communal needs, Jewish Family Services which helps nurture our souls, or our schools and programs of learning that help us encounter our traditions and texts.
Rosh Hashanah is also a time to be thankful for the blessings we have in our own personal lives – the blessings of family, friends, health, and the communities within which we participate. Across the Jewish world, hundreds of thousands of hours are dedicated by amazingly talented leadership to improve, enhance and grow our Jewish communities.
It’s too easy to enumerate all that is wrong with our world. The good parts we often take for granted.