Remembering the past and looking to the future
October 9, 2020
By Irv Levy

This time of year always causes me to slow down and become more introspective. The changing of the seasons, from summer to autumn, the changing of the colors from green to array of beautiful golds, reds and yellows and the holidays: The Jewish holidays from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur and Sukkot to Simchat Torah. All of this brings appreciation for the beauty that G-d has brought into the world and my gratitude for sharing in it.

This year of course is different. We can’t pray in our synagogues, we can’t have dinner with our families, our kids’ school has been disrupted and we can’t travel for business or pleasure. Covid-19 has taken so much away. But the holidays give me the opportunity to remember what I can be appreciative of. My family is healthy and safe (my prayers are with those who are ill, or have passed); instead of going out for dinner we have eaten as a family more often; since my kids school has been disrupted I have been able to spend more time with them, and instead of traveling, we have been able to enjoy the beauty of Western New York. Donna and I biked over 1,800 miles this summer and we have hiked so many of the beautiful trails in our area. While life is different, we are grateful for what we have, and we do not despair over what we have lost. Celebrating the Jewish holidays as our people have done for thousands of years brings comfort to the turmoil we feel around us. It reminds us that while some things are different, some very important things have not changed at all. Surely are ancestors suffered through more than what we find for ourselves today.

The Annual Meeting for the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies (Foundation) will be held next Tuesday, October 13th on YouTube Live at 7pm. I hope you can join us. The theme of this year’s meeting is Honoring our Legacy, Celebrating our Donors and Envisioning our Future.

Simchat Torah (Hebrew for rejoicing with the Torah) starts tomorrow evening and I find the parallels to the Foundation’s Annual Meeting to be interesting. At the Foundation we are celebrating the past, present and the future, there is no beginning or end. Yesterday’s future is tomorrow’s past. Simchat Torah is the celebration of the Torah, the foundation of Judaism. We read the last chapter and then immediately begin the first, there is no beginning or end. Why do we finish and re-start the reading of the Torah on the same day? The Sages explain: “To show that the Torah is beloved to us like a new object and not something old which is no longer treasured.” Since it is brand new to us, we all run to greet it. Simchat Torah is a joyous celebratory holiday like Purim. All Jewish holidays are mandated either biblically or rabbinically, except for one:  Simchat Torah developed through custom. This makes the holiday even more special, for instead of being obligated to celebrate, we choose to celebrate. When you do something by choice it is done out of love, not obligation. Simchat Torah is a celebration of unity and equality among our people. We celebrate by dancing with the Torah closed, something that can be done equally by all.

As the Torah is the foundation of Judaism, the Foundation serves as a base for Jewish Buffalo working with our donors to ensure that our community has the resources needed to be strong and vibrant in the future. It is a commandment to give to charity during life and it has become a custom to leave a legacy to provide for our community after death. Like Simchat Torah in celebrating unity, the Foundation has opportunities for all members of our community to participate in ensuring the strong and vibrant future for all of our Jewish Agencies.

Celebrate the holiday. Dance, rejoice and join us on Tuesday evening.  Please register HERE and we will send you the link to watch the event on Tuesday afternoon!

Irv Levy is the Executive Director of the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies.

Remembering the past and looking to the future - Jewish thought of the week graphic
Remembering the past and looking to the future - FJP Annual Mtg 2020 Invitation