Our Annual Theme
This Year – 5773
Gaze at an elder’s visage, the creases, the skin’s patina and angularity, and you will find out something about past and future. So it is that the driest places on the face of the earth are lined with shadows and sharp turns. Dry gullies reveal where waters just yesterday flowed insistently, running towards a destination, and they are likely to return. AFIKIM is the word for channels. They are clearest, etched indelibly, when life’s deluge ebbs, and yet we anticipate a renewed burst of vigor tomorrow.
Once upon a time, our ancestors living in exile prayed, “Adonai, bring back our recharged ones like the water channels in the Negev.” Not only are these channels reminders of the past, they point the way forward.
So it is that OFEK (from whence the term AFIKIM is derived) means horizon in modern Hebrew. And AFIKOMEN (which we eat at the Seder meal’s conclusion), according to creative rabbinic etymology (Talmud Pesachim 119b), is related to “not quitting on” one’s community (havurah is the Talmud’s term).
We may not all get to see where everything leads, but the lines on the map attest to the river’s course. It will be here anew, to take the next generation in the direction we need to go.
Last Year – 5772
Our theme last year wass OLAMIM, the Hebrew word for worlds. The root of this word is o-l-m. Biblical scholars postulate that it comes from a cognate meaning “to hide or conceal.”
The ancient rabbis articulated that we exist on two planes or live in two worlds at once, one obvious and one more hidden. They talked about a yerushalayim shel ma’alah (Upper Jerusalem) and a yerushalayim shel matah (Lower Jerusalem).
They considered that our actions here in this world profoundly influence the larger spiritual picture.
Jewish wisdom may imagine a larger, more holistic place for us to situate our most sublime prayers and yearnings (Upper Jerusalem), but it is in this world (Lower Jerusalem), that we get the work done and push ourselves to make personal and social change. By living in this world more fully, we can see ourselves reaching beyond it, responding to yet another one, and creating hope.