Shabbaton: Privacy/Security/Inclusivity/Salad

By Dave Nelson

Dave Nelson and a goat
On the weekend of August 14 AARC was pleased to host a shabbaton with Rabbis Michael Strassfeld and Joy Levitt, who will be visiting us several times this year, including for High Holy Day services. Strassfeld and Levitt are two of the most distinguished rabbis currently working in the Reconstructionist movement, and the mid-August Shabbat evening service they led was fresh and lively—a promising glimpse of what we might expect for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Rabbi Joy’s Kabbalat Shabbat sermon was concise and graceful.  She deftly explored what appeared to be trivial (and somewhat contradictory) rabbinical opinions on the proper construction of courtyard entryways: Who can be obliged to chip in to pay for it, how the doorhandles are to be mounted, where a gatehouse should be located, and so on.  But she teased out a very powerful, surprisingly relevant message about how we are morally obligated to work together to maintain our privacy and security, without inadvertently fostering exclusivity.  While there are obvious overtones here—especially in an age of shared and contested borders, gated communities, large-scale protests, and larger-scale dumps of hacked databases—what the rabbi chose to highlight was the slightly more subtle moral hazard: When we become too wholly focused on maintaining our own security and privacy, we make ourselves entirely inaccessible to the cries of those in need of our assistance.

As ever, the potluck was delicious and diverse.  Quinoa and kale were in surprisingly short supply, but a variety of exceedingly fresh tomato and cucumber salads more than compensated for this omission.