A Teaching: Connect to Community
In preparation for the High Holy Days, we have a teaching from Sharona Kaplan, who is beginning her 16th year as the Campus Director for OU-JLIC at Hillel at UCLA.
Years ago, a Rabbi offered me his secret to ensuring a successful High Holiday season. Curious about the magical formula and eager for my prayers to be received, I prepared to commit his answer to memory. Decades later, I annually revisit his (surprisingly accessible) advice.
Connect to Community.
On Rosh Hashonah we are, indeed, examined as individuals with our merits and demerits pitted against each other to determine our deserved fate. Yet, the Rabbis teach, we are also evaluated as part of a larger whole and the impact of our fate is considered within the broader affect it will have on all of those connected to us. Those with strong familial bonds, connections to community and institutional investments are force multipliers, with their personal health, wealth and success strengthening the broader community. By virtue of their communal connections, their blessings are investments that are exponentially magnified as they benefit the masses, almost incentivizing positive judgement even in a situation where an individual may be less worthy. Conversely, a connected individual could avoid a potentially negative verdict after appreciating how dramatically his new personal reality would challenge those connected to him, rendering the judgement too severe.
This refreshing bit of real advice can offer a tangible way to help engage a season set apart by its spiritual significance. It’s a reminder that the people whose lives we impact ultimately impact ours. Like the Hebrew word for giving, ‘Natan’, which is notably a palindrome, implies, those we service in turn service us, intangibly giving our lives definition and blessings.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you, the extended Hillel at UCLA family, for your connections to our student community. Together we enrich the lives of so many remarkable individuals and, through our relationship, strengthen the bonds of Jewish students on campus. May you and your families be blessed with a sweet new year and may the blessings overflow to enrich all of those around you.