We are heading into the Shavuot holiday, one of the three pilgrimage festivals that also celebrates the giving and receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Tonight, we commemorate the covenantal moment that binds us together across communities and across time. We learn, we teach, we receive, we pass it on, we hear voices that have come before us, and we contribute our voices to the unfolding Jewish and human conversation that is, in the broadest sense, Torah. There is a powerful sense that we are part of something larger than ourselves.
This is also the perfect holiday on which to share our first-ever CJP Legacy and Endowment report, which celebrates people who have given to this community in a unique and powerful way. The report tells the stories of our past, the lives that have come before ours, and highlights the generosity of those who have created a foundation upon which we and future generations will stand, to whom we are deeply grateful.
These themes were palpable last Sunday night, when four generations of my family gathered with nearly 500 people to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Gann Academy, where my children go to school, and where I was privileged to serve as Head of School for over a decade. Every past board president attended the event, and there were tables filled with the founders and pioneers whose passion, vision, and tireless dedication created the school. We were also joined by current administrators and staff who look forward with vision, innovating to meet the evolving needs of the diverse student body, and preparing them to thrive as Jewish adults in a changing world. I was struck by the feeling of past, present, and future coming together.
In this spirit, a poignant and meaningful moment for me was joining with the founding Head of School, my mentor and predecessor, Rabbi Daniel Lehmann, and current Head of School, Dr. Dalia Hochman, to light a symbolic Havdalah candle. The Havdalah candle — a braided torch lit every Saturday night to mark the transition from Shabbat to the rest of the week — is a longtime Gann symbol, representing the intertwining of different voices, perspectives, and stories that make up the tapestry of the school’s pluralistic community. On Sunday night, as we lit the candle, it also represented a weaving together of different generations. Together on stage with a current Gann rabbi and teacher who himself was a student in the school’s first graduating class, we were, quite literally, receiving and passing the torch.
The next evening, I had the privilege of interviewing Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer and member of our Jewish community, Chaim Bloom, at a Boston Jewish Film event. In a beautifully articulated description of baseball and Judaism, he said (I’m paraphrasing): “One of the things that keeps me grounded and humble is the knowledge that baseball has been around for a long time before me and will be around for a long time after me. The same is true with Judaism. I have the distinct sense that I’m part of something larger than myself.”
These powerful moments and messages resonate deeply with the holiday of Shavuot. We are all links in the chain. Together we will safeguard the legacies that we have inherited and play our parts to ensure that this community and the Jewish People thrive for generations to come.
Rabbi Marc Baker