This week’s Torah portion establishes [at least] two important foundations for the Jewish people. The first – and much better-known – is the giving of the Ten Commandments from God to Moses at Mt. Sinai. It is more than a moment of fire and brimstone emblazoned in our memories; it is the beginning of our formation – who we are, what we believe, and how we interact with the people who both make up our community and who find themselves separate from it. The second – and I argue, more profound – is the sharing of perspective from Jethro to his son-in-law Moses about the latter’s style of leadership. Indeed, it is Jethro, a non-Jew, who is able to see what Moses himself cannot see; that the burden of leading a people should not fall upon him alone. Jethro teaches Moses that governing is not meant to be a solo effort – and through this we learn that in life, in work, in learning and in love, we are better together than we are on our own.
It is a perfect message for this weekend’s celebration of our Adult B’nai Mitzvah students; five individuals who have committed to well over a year of devoted study so that they can, this Shabbat, read from the Torah and lead our community in prayer. These five souls have worked together over these many months, lifting one another up and inspiring their teachers through their commitment to a Jewish ritual typically bestowed upon teenagers. These adults have chosen to pursue this meaningful accomplishment in their own lives and together will be called to the Torah as members of our Temple community. We welcome you to join us as we celebrate their accomplishments and learn from their experiences, making into a tangible reality that original teaching from Jethro himself: we are better together than we are on our own.
Rabbi Jaclyn Cohen