I have a new favorite restaurant. The food is good, but that is not why it is my favorite. As luck would have it, both times that we have gone to the restaurant, we were the only ones there. Each time, the owner greeted us at the door and asked each of my children their names and ages. And she made a connection to each of their names . . . she happened to share a name with one of my children and then shared that she had a niece with the same name as the other. The conversation continued with more questions: how old are you and where do you live? Luckily, she didn’t ask me how old I am!
She made us feel as if we were entering her home, sitting at her kitchen table to have a meal, and that we were connected. And for those moments we were there, I truly felt at home, with family.
The experience left me thinking about how we see ourselves in relationship to those around us. Do we see our neighbors and fellow world travelers as distant, remote entities, or are our lives entwined webs that bring us together out of our own isolation?
Albert Einstein wrote: A human being is part of the whole, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.
Einstein rightly reminds us, that our lives are all intertwined and the ultimate goal is to create meaningful connections. And that is what these next two months of Elul and Tishrei are for, a time to remind ourselves that we are part of the Universe, together, and make meaningful connections.
We enter into Elul self-focused. It is the moment to do soul-ful reflection as we launch into a new year. We don’t do it alone; it is best done in community, as our tradition reminds us. As Tishrei begins, we find ourselves together, as a whole community, celebrating the High Holidays which then launches us into the frenzy of Sukkot. Each turn, or in truth each holiday, reminds us that we are part of a greater whole, as we come together.
Each time we gather, it is one more opportunity to remind ourselves that we are not alone. It is one more opportunity to turn to someone else and ask them about themselves, and find a meaningful connection;because a connection exists between each and every one of us. And as we do that, as we connect with one another, the synagogue becomes home and we find ourselves amongst family. Then Einstein’s theory is proven true.
In the coming days, we will be in and out of the synagogue. Don’t forget to find the time to connect with one another – even if it is during services. It might just help you feel at home and want to return again together, more often, during the coming year.