The New Shul

Parshat Toldot

This week’s parashah, Toldot, begins: “This is the geneology of Yitzhak, son of Avraham: Avraham fathered Yitzhak. . .”  Yitzhak is defined as the son of Avraham, and Avraham as the one who fathered Yitzhak. Each is identified by his relationship to the other.

Why the circularity? According to Rabbi Hanokh of Alexandrov, the Torah is letting us know how Avraham and Yitzhak saw themselves. In Yitzhak’s mind, his only claim to fame was that he was the son of Avraham. Avraham, on the other hand, felt that his only achievement worth mentioning was being the father of Yitzhak.

What we learn from Avraham and Yitzhak, according to Rabbi Hanokh, is that we human beings have no identity in isolation. Alone, we are no one. Like Avraham and Yitzhak, we are defined by our relationships, by how, and to whom, we are connected.

That is why, when we are searching for a deeper sense of who we are, we often turn to spiritual community. One way to think of a spiritual community is as a circle of connectedness in which we discover our true self. In making ourselves accountable to others, we learn who we really are. May our shul always be a place of such self-discovery.

  • Shabbat services at The New Shul are on Friday evenings from 6 to 7 pm, and on Saturday mornings from 9 am to 12 noon. The kiddush-lunch this Shabbat, November 22, is sponsored by Mariam Cohen and Barry Schnur in honor of Mariam’s birthday.
  • Childcare on Shabbat mornings is available from 10 am to noon. Our learning services for children this Shabbat are: for grades K to 2 from 10:30 to 11:15 am, for pre-schoolers from 11:15 to 11:45 am, and for grades 3 to 5 from 10:15 to 11:30 am.
  • Minyanim during the week are on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am and Wednesday mornings at 7 am.
  • The New Shul’s annual Hanukah Coffee House is on Saturday night December 20 at 7:30 pm. Join us for live music and other entertainment by our own local talent. The cost is $5 per adult at the door.
  • On New Year’s Day, Thursday January 1, the New Shul community will serve meals to the hungry at St. Vincent de Paul’s Jackson St. dining room. Please let us know if you can help.
  • On the Sunday of Martin Luther King Day Weekend, January 18, The New Shul will host the first day of a two-day Mussar retreat, co-sponsored by the Valley Beit Midrash. On Monday January 19, the retreat will continue at Temple Chai. Further information is available here.
  • Coming up at the Women’s Jewish Learning CenterCrossing Cairo, a lecture by Rabbi Ruth Sohn on her book by that title, Sunday December 14 at 4 pm, hosted by The New Shul.