With a Whole Heart

Oasis Songs: Musings from Rav D
Friday, May 19, 2023 / 28 Iyar 5783

Summary: What does it mean to live, love, and learn with a whole heart?

Reading Time: Three minutes

On Thursday, Cantor Bitton, Rabbi Posen, and I spent four hours at the mikveh welcoming five new Jews to our community. Each conversion and affirmation ceremony was beautifully touching; appropriately, the final immersion of the day was with a darling baby boy. I had fun talking to him in my best falsetto and was rewarded with the sweetest and most heart-warming of smiles. There’s nothing like a baby to make one hope for a better world as well as offering that child all the blessings that life can offer. Babies remind us of possibilities.

Perhaps that is why I have felt my attention pulled to next week’s parshah of Naso, for within it are the words to Birkat Kohanim, the priestly benediction. If you have ever attended b’nei mitzvah ceremonies at CNS, you know these words:

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהֹוָ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃ {ס}

May God bless you and protect you!

יָאֵ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה ׀ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃ {ס}

May God deal kindly and graciously with you!

יִשָּׂ֨א יְהֹוָ֤ה ׀ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃ {ס}

May God bestow [divine] favor upon you and grant you peace!

This three-part blessing has often been seen to represent material, intellectual, and spiritual well-being. In other words, this is a blessing designed to help us live a full, rich, balanced life.

Recently, our senior professional staff gathered at Marlene Edenzon’s home for a morning of team-building. If you have not yet had an opportunity to meet our new executive director, please know that she is anxious to meet you. Part of our focus at that half-day retreat was to develop a theme for the year that can help guide our kehillah kedoshah in our first full year after the pandemic, for while lockdowns may be behind us, I suspect that each of us still has parts of us that remain a little bit locked down.

Newborns remind us of possibility and potential because their entire lives are in front of them, yet their presence is a reminder that the entirety of the rest of our lives is also unwritten. The past is only prologue: we all want each of you and our Neveh Shalom community to thrive in the different realms so necessary for a balanced and rewarding life. As we thought about that, we developed our yearly theme of Lev Shalem: Whole Heartedness—What happens when we learn, love, and lead with whole hearts?

As the Birkat Kohanim makes clear, this is a question that has been asked over the generations; it is one of those eternal questions meant to encourage us to manifest our best lives. As we approach the High Holiday season, you will hear more about Lev Shalem. As prelude to that, I am interested to learn what you think occurs when we learn, love, and lead with whole hearts. I’d like to invite you to use that question as a prompt for discussion at your Shabbat table and over the weeks to come.

M’omek libi—from the bottom of my heart,

Rav D

If you’d like to continue this discussion, follow this link to CNS’s Facebook page to share your own perspectives on the topics raised in this week’s Oasis Songs. Comments will be moderated as necessary.