Ma’agal haHayim – The Circle of Life
The Jewish people was born at the foot of Mt Sinai, according to our tradition. From that moment on, to be Jewish is to be part of a community. When we form a minyan of ten to pray, or when we gather a beyt din of three to affirm a life cycle event, Jewish experience is surrounded by a supportive Jewish context – and the community is sacred, Judaism teaches, because in our gathering to care for each other, we evoke G-d’s presence.
When a Jewish child is welcomed into the Covenant of the Jewish people as an infant, there is a special prayer for the child’s parent: “as you have brought your child into the Covenant of Israel, so may you lead your child to the intellectual development which is symbolized by study of Torah; may you teach your child the caring for others which leads to a life characterized by acts of justice; and may you help your child develop the capacity for fulfilling relationships and meaningful community evoked by the huppah and the shul.”
As a learning congregation, we delight in exploring the many Jewish rituals that exist to bring meaning to our significant moments. As a congregational community, we celebrate together and help each other mourn, as witnesses and as companions on a spiritual journey. And as we help each other grow spiritually, each of us comes to understand for ourselves what it means to inherit Sinai, and to be part of this community of meaning. No one undergoes a Jewish lifecycle ritual alone, although each one of us individually experiences the ritual in one’s own way.
One prays alone, and then discovers the power of praying with the community. One stands alone in mourning, yet is surrounded by those who answer the Kaddish prayer. One is known by all the rest of us who are sharing this spiritual path together – and our celebrations are sweeter for it.
“Alone, I cannot lift my voice in song. Then you come near and sing with me. Our voices come together, and a new song soars. Our bond is beyond voice and voice. Our bond is one of spirit and spirit.”
Pinhas of Koretz