This week’s Torah portion, “Toldot,” is about the “generations” of Isaac. There is a theme throughout this Torah portion that “zera” or “seeds” of Israel, of our people, will be fruitful throughout time. God reminds Isaac several times along these lines: “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven . . .” (Gen. 26:4)
Certainly, the number of our population doesn’t seem quite like the stars of heaven, even though we do now hold 6% of the seats of the House of Representatives.
“Zera” also means potential, strength and power. The “zera” we hold inside as a people, is the “seed” of transformation, it is a “seed” of ideas, and it is a “seed” to plant for the next generation.
In the Blessing after Torah, we hear “V’chayei olam, nata b’tocheinu,” meaning “eternal life is planted deep within us.” By studying Torah, with our heritage, and the seeds we plant, a potential for another life is born.
This week has been powerful for me personally, experiencing a seed of merely an idea coming to life. In July of 2016 (the summer before our 170th anniversary May 2017), I called our member, Dr. Nathanial Mayer, with an idea of commissioning a piece of music based on what KI stands for and for what the synagogue means to all of us. I wanted a musical piece that would be both moving musically and politically. The Mayer family believed in this project, and we commissioned Cantor Jonathan Comisar to compose a piece.
This seed then went into the hands of Cantor Comisar and Rabbi Sussman, who together watered it with the idea of setting the music to George Washington’s Letter to the Jewish People (Cir. 1790). After months of composing, Cantor Comisar came to our musical team with “To Bigotry, No Sanction: George Washington’s Letter to the Jewish People.” In February of 2017, it was performed here at KI
In 1790 George Washington very much planted the seed that the new American government was to assure that the new Constitution offered America’s Jews “the invaluable rights of free citizens” privileges that were denied them in most other countries. The President followed this statement with what certainly was a revolutionary promise asserting that the new nation would give “to bigotry no sanction”. This right to participate fully in a democracy had never before been guaranteed to Jews in the modern era.
We recently began working on a new creative project to further the impact of this piece of music, along with George Washington’s idea of “to bigotry no sanction.” Its impact will be, to challenge bigotry in this country and beyond. Washington’s pledge to the Jews and to peoples of all faiths and backgrounds is a timeless and hopeful message that is planted deep within our heritage, our generations, and our own teachings.
Each of us holds seeds within our own hearts, and we must know that they do have the potential for life, especially when shared with others who with their talents and gifts can make it into a garden. May KI be the place for all of us to share our own seeds, to have them watered and nourished, and let those seeds be used for transformation of darkness into light!