By Judi Dickstein Kenter
WLCJ Executive Committee
In Parashat Chayyei Sarah, Eliezer is sent with gold and jewels and other valuables to give to the woman who will be the appropriate bride for Isaac. He finds the right woman, a woman who extends hospitality and graciousness to his animals, as well as to Eliezer. Yes, the precious items that Eliezer gifted to Rebecca and her family were valuable but so, too, were the water and hospitality of inestimable value.
I will begin this story with the arrival of Rabbi Eytan Kenter, Staci, thirty-six other members of the Kehillat Beth Israel group, and a Sefer Torah in Arusha, Tanzania. Unbelievable, amazing, unique – the look on the faces of the people of the Arusha Jewish community. The joy expressed in the smiles and the tears of a people that have been without a Sefer Torah for almost 50 years.
The group from Canada, in addition to bringing the Torah, also brought kippot, mezuzot, tallitot, siddurim, chumashim, and more, as well as toys and books for the children. Yes, they were delivering valuable items but, in return, they received so much of value from the Jewish community of Arusha – a warm welcome, hospitality, and feelings that were truly precious. From the beaming smile on Yehuda‘s face, when he took and cradled the Torah in his arms, to the dancing and singing with the Torah under the chuppah on the way to their shul, to the first reading of a Torah in the lives of many of the Arusha congregation, to the sharing between the groups, these were truly valuable and precious moments: Valuables given and received, and other valuables given and received.
The wish that I have is that we truly appreciate our valuables. That we realize how precious our Sifrei Torah are. That we bring the sense of amazement when we hear the Torah being read. That we feel the warmth when we are connected to our local Jewish community and to the larger Jewish community.
(There is a fascinating backstory to this, which is available at Convivium.ca – Peter Stockland, “Connecting the Core of Judaism.”)
(More information and postings on the trip should be available on the Kehillat Beth Israel, Ottawa, Canada Facebook page. The delivery date of the Torah was November 6, 2019)