Chaverim Yekarim,

As you know, our synagogue is a proud member of the URJ, the Union for Reform Judaism. Yes, we incline more toward ”traditional” ritual and practice, but our worldview and vision firmly coincide with that of the URJ.

Every other year, thousands of Jews from across North America and the world gather together at the URJ Biennial to learn and pray, dance and sing, share ideas and listen to inspiring speakers. It is a chance to recommit ourselves to our movement and our faith, to reconnect as well as to create new connections.

I am embarrassed to say I have never been to one. Will you join me this year? This year (2019), the Biennial takes place in Chicago from December 11th – 15th. As someone who used to live in Chicago, I assure you the winters are not as bad as they say. In fact, coming from Baton Rouge, imagine how refreshing that cool air would feel as you stare at the beautiful skyscrapers and the blue waters of Lake Michigan!

Will you join me as part of a delegation from Beth Shalom? Will you help me reflect on where we have been and where we are going as a movement, as a People. This week’s Torah portion Matot-Masei deals specifically with this, focusing on the different and sacred steps in our People’s journey through the wilderness.

The Midrash explains that this detailed account reflects God’s loving concern for the children of Israel. It is compared to a king who had taken his ailing child to a distant land in order to be cured. On the return journey, the king would stop at each resting place and remind his child: this is where we found shelter; this is where we cooled off at an oasis; here is where you had a headache. Each place evoked memories and created a deeper bond between the king and his child.

Not only a way of recounting the past with nostalgia, it was also a way of marking the future with anticipation. Please consider joining me at Biennial as we, too, can mark the future with anticipation and excitement. I have a limited amount of $100 scholarships I am giving out to help defray the costs of registration and travel. Please let me know asap if you are interested.

As today we begin the new month of Av on the Hebrew calendar, I pray for a month of sustenance and blessings, health and peace for us all.

Chodesh tov and Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Natan