These are the words
These are the stories
This is the way we make meaning of our lives.
This Shabbat we begin the 5th and final book of Torah. It begins like this:
These are the words that Moses spoke to all of the Israelites…
Moses retells many of the stories of the past 40 years to this new generation about to enter the Promised Land. In many places his retelling differs from the earlier versions told in previous books of Torah. It is often asked why this is so, and yet I would counter that question with: How could it not be so?
How many times have I retold a story from my past and each time I tell it a little bit differently, perhaps stressing a different part or even leaving out certain details, depending on who I am speaking to and my own state of mind and emotions at the time. Can you relate?
As we look back on the important moments we have lived, the stories we choose to tell give shape and meaning to our lives.
As Rabbi Yael Levy writes: Who we have been and who we will continue to become is fashioned through the narratives we weave… How do we speak of those moments when we have missed the mark, when we have done something we later regret? How do we recount our joys and successes… our experiences of connection , awareness and love?
Our paths are shaped by the stories we tell. Since I arrived here in Portsmouth, I have been interested in learning all I can about this special community and I have heard many, many stories. Together they create a tapestry of history and meaning.
Tonight, I am asking each of you to reflect on the stories you tell yourselves and each other about this community.
In particular, what are the stories you cherish?
And taking this one step further, what are the stories you would like to tell about these times we are living through?
Our stories shape our lives.
Eileh Ha-d’varim- these are the words.
What are the words that you are carrying in your heart right now?
What are the words you long to hear?
I invite you, over these next months, to meet with me and share your stories. I am eager to learn what it is you are longing to hear.
Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman