As New Year 2018 unfolds, I like to check in and reflect upon how I am living since Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. To do this, I often refer to the Pirkei Avot, which generally translates as “Ethics of Our Fathers.” As one of the best known and most cited of Jewish texts, it is a cherished and revered compilation of the ethical teachings and maxims passed down by our greatest rabbis. Perhaps my favorite reading comes from Rabbi Ben Zoma, a second-century scholar who teaches, “Who is rich? Those who are happy with their portion.”
Can we be certain that we know what is good for us? How many times in your life has something appeared to be a blessing that turned out to be a curse, while the affliction carried within it the seeds of renewal?
I find that this teaching also suggests living simply. If you are happy with your portion, you can live within your means and according to your deepest priorities. How does the pursuit of the material (beyond our needs) help us become happy, and a good person? Being happy with our lot, on the other hand, does help keep our material cravings in check, so we can focus on our higher priority—our spiritual growth. The issue is not material things in themselves but emotional attachment to possessions, which can be a distraction—even an overwhelming obsession.
Is pursuing more and bigger things the way you want to live your life, or do you yearn to strive toward being the best person you can be?
In 1912 on Purim, Henrietta Szold strived to be the best she could be and founded Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah took its name from the heroine of the Purim story, Queen Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah. The story of Esther emphasizes Jewish women’s pivotal role in our communities.
Today, with more than 330,000 members, associates, and supporters, Hadassah is in its second century, growing its commitment to innovative and life-changing medical care and research, women’s empowerment, education, advocacy, philanthropy, and building Jewish identity – in Israel, America, and around the world.
On Friday, February 23, 2018, during TAE’s Shabbat service, local Hadassah members will join us as we honor and celebrate 106 years of amazing work that Hadassah has accomplished. They will remain for oneg and be available to discuss Hadassah’s current goals and programming.
We give thanks for those who have set examples for us in the past: Queen Esther and Vashti, Queen of Persia, Henrietta Szold, and the countless men and women who have helped Hadassah serve the needs of all people, so that we will never again live in fear of a Haman or an Amalek.
Hadassah’s spirit has enabled them to bring healing to all the people of Jerusalem and Israel.