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Hakhel Spotlight: Shana Tova from Hakhel!

Dear friends,

Shana tova, Happy New Year! Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are upon us again. It is the month of the year the Jews all over the world most look to their communities for meaning, connection and personal acceptance. Much has been written about the Jewish Holidays being like an ascending spiral: although the Holidays repeat year after year, those celebrating them ascend rather than return around the circle as they find deeper and more personal connections to the festivals each time they come by. The same can be said of many of the communities which have grown through Hakhel – as the only Jewish Intentional Communities incubator. We map out growth of communities which may run the same programming year after year- communal prayers, Rosh Hashanah dinner, a picnic at sukkot, but it is a great honour to see that through those activities, communities deeper their internal connections to each other, find more meaning in their interpersonal relationships, and give of just a bit more of themselves into the collective spirit with every year that goes by.

Benedict Allen, the jungle explorer famed for crossing the Amazon basin by foot, describes his philosophy saying, “exploration isn’t about conquering nature, planting flags or leaving your mark. It’s about the opposite: opening yourself up and allowing the place to leave its mark on you.” Our blessing to us all for this new year is that we succeed to open ourselves up to the meaning of the festivals, to the people around us, to the communities we are a part, and to the belief that others have a meaningful contribution to make to our lives.

Wishing you and your family a shana tova, a happy new year, and may it be a year of building for us all,

Aharon Ariel Lavi and Leah Palmer

Hakhel: The Jewish Intentional Communities Incubator in the Diaspora

PS: Here are educational materials for Yom Kippur that you may find useful – thank you to Machon Kehillot for sharing this with us! (Document is in Hebrew).


A message about the chagim from Aharon:

A Hasidic tale tells of a Rebbe in a Russian village who used to take a dip in the river every morning. One day, a new local policeman on his first patrol just before sunrise, saw the Rebbe diving into the frozen river.  He ran to the strange old man, shouting to him to get out of the river, and calling, “Who are you? What do you come from? And where are you going?” The old Rebbe smiled gently and asked the policeman “How much do they pay you for this job?” “Ten kufeykas a day”, answered the baffled young policeman. “I’ll tell you what,” said the Rebbe, “I’ll pay you twenty kufeykas a day if you come to me every morning and ask me who I am, where do I come from and where I am going to.”

Human beings are dynamic and ever-evolving creatures, and just like our muscles become atrophied if not stimulated enough, so does our moral balance and intellectual drive. The latter are kept in shape by asking ourselves these very questions on a constant basis: who am I, where do I come from, and where am I going to?

One way to do it would be putting a sticky note on the fridge, another is setting up a reminder on our smartphone or meditating about it. As part of an intentional community with a social mission, we enjoy the optimal environment for moral and intellectual fitness: an intentional community is a group of people who have consciously decided to live together spatially and temporally around a shared purpose. In this sense, an intentional community serves as a framework for individual growth and moral behavior, as the group is constantly reexamining these questions so the members have no choice but to look inside themselves to find the answers.

In addition, Rosh Hashanah is all about asking ourselves these questions, remembering where we come from and are we going to. Let’s use this upcoming one as an opportunity to do this communally.