KICKS Dvar Torah given by Rabbi Rachel Silverman on 3/8/13
The Mishneh teaches that there are four “new years” – four Rosh Hashanahs that
we celebrate throughout the year:
• The first of Nisan, the beginning of spring coming up on Tuesday;
• The first of Elul, the new year for animal tithes.
• The first of Tishrei – also known to us as the holiday of Rosh Hashanah
• The 15th of Shevat – Tu BiShvat – the birthday of the trees.
It’s clear to me that the Mishnah missed one. There is a fifth “new year” that our community celebrates – and it falls on the second Shabbat in March – the birthday of KICKS!
This is my favorite Shabbat of the year – not because of anything the Torah portion says, but because I get to talk about KICKS and perpetuate the myths of our founding. 🙂
Once upon a time, a little over three years ago, there was a group of nerdy empowered Jews living in Brookline (and probably Allston and Brighton too) who craved a Friday night davening experience that was both egalitarian and songful. Nothing existed that fit the bill – so in the living room of KI’s then rabbinic intern, these people thoughtfully created every aspect of KICKS as you know it. From the re-usable shot-glasses at Kiddush to the person who greets you at the door; from the artfully worded signs to the business cards that we hand out to newcomers – every detail of KICKS was deliberately crafted.
You might say we were a group of type-A control freaks – but I prefer the idea that we were “thoughtful and intentional” 😉
In all seriousness, a lot of thought was put into the creation of KICKS and our general philosophy. Using different people’s various talents to maximize our results, we would spend the week preparing so that a transformative Shabbat experience could take place. Which is precisely what happens in this week’s Torah portion.
We start this week’s double parsha (Vayakel-Pekudei) with another command to keep Shabbat – and then go directly to descriptions of the various contributions (both tangible and intangible) that people made to the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
No less than ten times we are told about the skills that people put to use, building the Mishkan. The Torah goes to great lengths to be very clear that the Israelites gave with incredible generosity. People from all ends of the community pitched in, contributing in whatever ways they could, towards this communal project.
The juxtaposition of the command to keep Shabbat with the description of the work people did for the Mishkan tells us first that Shabbat supersedes any building, even of something as central to the community as the Tabernacle. And second, that a tremendous amount of communal effort went into creating the space where holiness and transformation happened. All that work during the week to allow for the spiritual experience that only happened when that work ceased for Shabbat.
So too for the KICKS community. We would not exist without all of the efforts that our volunteers put in. You – our talented community – have put in hundreds of hours over the past three years, practicing davening, crafting dvrei torah, buying kiddush food, engaging in communal conversations about our vision, and cooking Shabbat dinner – all in preparation for the KICKS Shabbat experience. And when Friday night davening is over, you continue giving by cleaning up, welcoming folks into your homes, and then starting all over again the next week. You continue to give generously to keep this community vibrant.
At first glance, these parshiyot may seem overly detailed, very specific, and perhaps lacking deep meaning. But the truth of the matter is, if I wasn’t worried about boring you, I would’ve used this dvar torah time to reminisce about who led davening the first time KICKS met, which tunes they used, what they wore, who taught, how many people attended, where they sat, what we ate at kiddush, and all sorts of other minutia that I’m guessing won’t interest you.
It is because I’m deeply proud of what we’ve created at KICKS that I want to ingrain in you, the inheritors of KICKS, the details of our founding. So with the mindset of an individual in awe of what a community can create when they put their collective efforts together, I read our parsha this week with incredible pride and joy, marveling at what a group of skilled, generous Israelites could build. Every piece of gold, silver, acacia wood, and goats’ hair represents the contributions of a community member joining a larger collective to create something new.
A list of the 84 volunteers who gave of themselves this past year – their talents, their time, their creativity, and their money – is posted outside in the foyer. Take a moment to read it during Kiddush. Thank someone on the list. Marvel at the length of the list. And then strive to do something in their honor – invite a new friend to join you for Shabbat dinner, make a commitment to be a greeter in the coming weeks, or learn how to daven. The best way we can say thank you and honor the people who keep KICKS going is by joining their ranks and giving generously of ourselves.
May we continue to grow, to inspire, and to empower one another for many many more years. Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam, Shechiyanu, V’kiyemanu, V’higiyanu Lazman HaZeh! Shabbat Shalom.