June 9th was the Etz Chayim Annual Meeting
It was a great meeting. Perhaps it was the sacrifice of the smoked salmon, with accompanying bagels and fixings, Perhaps the morning start time gave people more energy, or the fact that the Beyt Knesset was set up with round tables, cabaret style, put us in a festive mood. Perhaps it was the brownies with blue and white sprinkles.
Here is the agenda, in brief–D’var Torah, Vote Report, Speech from Prz, Speech from Treasurer, Speech from EVP, Get to Know New Director of Learning, Strategic Planning Session.
The remarks began with Ellen Bob, our executive director, who gave the D’var Torah.
Those of you who have gone through the Bar’t Mitzvah Family class with Ari may already be familiar with this saying from Pirke Avot, in chapter 3, verse 3: Rabbi Chananiah ben Teradyon said: When two people meet and do not exchange
Torah, they are regarded as a company of scoffers
However when two people meet and exchange Torah, the Shechinah—God’s immanent presence– hovers over them
This is the source for our tradition of beginning every meeting with a Dvar Torah
While I’m not exactly sure about what God has to do with this, I am pretty sure that when we take the time at the beginning of a meeting to exchange a few words of Torah, we are reminding ourselves that while we must run Etz Chayim in a businesslike fashion, what we are doing here is much bigger than a business. We are involved in a holy project of creating community, finding meaning, and creating tradition.
And so, now, a few words of Torah.
In this week’s Torah portion, Chukkat, in the book of numbers, we learn of the death of Miriam. It’s a pretty understated description. Numbers 20, Verses 1-2, we read: Miriam died there and was buried there and the community was without water.
From this juxtasposition, the rabbis interpolated a connection between Miriam’s death and the water shortage. They credited her with the existence of a magic well that followed the Israelites whevever they wandered in the wilderness. The medieval commentator Rashi writes, “we learn that all forty years they had a well because of the merit of Miriam.”
We had three great leaders in the wilderness—Moses talked to God and told the people what to do, Aaron was in charge of ritual life. Miriam, it seems, in addition to being the dance leader, was the provider of water.
And filling that critical need never gets a direct acknowledgement in the Torah. But when the water disappears along with her, havoc breaks out among the Israelites. They despair and yell at Moses to do something.
Etz life is full of Miriams whose efforts are the water of our community. People who fill critical tasks because they need to get done. I often refer to them as elves—the ones who sharpen the knives, wash the tablecloths, clean up after a shiva minyan, they just show up and slip away.
Because the work they do is so steady and so dependable, we sometimes forget to notice and acknowledge them.
The Annual Meeting is one way to thank those whose efforts are the water of our community. And when we do, we remember that stepping up to fill critical needs without bringing a lot of attention to ourselves is a tradition that goes back to Miriam. And to all of you, I offer a tambourine salute.
Then our secretary Celia announced the vote, we introduced the new directors, and they got their official name tags that said “board member.” then all the former board members stood so we could see how many there were in attendance. About 1/3 of the crowd of 70 people had served the congregation this way. There were lots of acknowledgements, then I made a speech, which I will put in the next post, because, boy, this post is long enough already!