This past Sunday, Am Kolel Sanctuary hosted a special event. About forty attendees representing several faith traditions gathered for a day of bridge building, learning and socializing. This "Spiritual Renewal Retreat" was organized by a small group call Jamaat, an Arabic word meaning "an assembly." It's also the acronym for Jews and Muslims and Allies Acting Together. About a third of the participants were Jewish, a third Muslim and the others from Buddhist, Hindu, Baha'i, Sikh and other paths. It was hard to distinguish who was who from what Path. The purpose of JAMAAT is to address biases, bigotry and to work together to create a more peaceful and just society.
Increasing numbers of Interfaith organizations have emerged over the last few years for a similar purpose: JIDS (Jewish Islamic Dialogue Society), the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, the Summit of Imams and Rabbis, and more. We, as a community, have been engaged with these efforts and are happy to provide an ecumenical and spiritual retreat center for their use.
As we conclude the Book of Numbers, we receive advice and insights about our life and our own journey. In Mattot-Masey, a double Parsha, we hear how the Israelites attacked the Midianites to eradicate their efforts to corrupt the Israelites with their beliefs and practices. Our sages and Hasidic masters draw attention to the psycho spiritual meaning of Midian. Playing on the letters of the word, they see it as how we are called to fight "illusion" (Damah) in our own lives.
We also read in the Parsha about the 42 stops by the people on their way to the Land. Each stop represents a life lesson. We might take some time this week or this Shabbat to think about the many stops or teaching moments on our own life's journey. The number 42 is also associated with an esoteric name for the Divine.
The Parsha concludes with the allocation of the Land to the tribes. It teaches an important lesson about the need for individuals and peoples to have their own sacred space. At the same time there is an underlying understanding of the essential common unity that the tribes share. "Many Paths, One Truth." This popular Hindu teaching is shared by our tradition as well.
We continue our search for meaning this coming season with new classes and programs for our members and others. We invite your suggestions. Please email me! Brachot, Reb David