November 2015 – Message From Rabbi Arnow

What’s Your Micro-Community?

There are the people who put out the food, and the people who help clean it up. There are the people who make sure the doors are unlocked, and then locked again. There are the people who read Torah, and assign aliyot, and call page numbers, and teach Torah. There are the people who tap and sing while everyone washes hands. There are the people who make sure everyone has a ride there, and a ride home.

These are some of the people who make up the micro-community that gathers every Saturday afternoon for the end of Shabbat. We gather about two hours before Shabbat ends for mincha (the afternoon service), followed by seudah shelisheet (the third meal of Shabbat), some Torah study and conversation, birkat hamazon (the grace after meals), maariv (the evening service), and then Havdalah, the ceremony with which we end Shabbat.

Sometimes we are joined by someone with a yahrzeit saying Kaddish. Often, though, it’s the same fifteen or so people who come pretty regularly. And it’s an incredible community that exists. When someone is missing, his/her absence is palpable because it’s such a steady group in which no one can be anonymous. Everyone knows his/her roles, and everyone has a job. Because the pace is not hurried, there’s time to really talk, to really get to know people, to learn their stories, and to get involved in conversation. Because it’s a relatively steady group, we can study something continuously, and not go back and review too much each week.

This is not intended to be an advertisement for Kol Rinah’s Shabbat mincha/maariv, although it’s a delightful, sweet and wonderful micro-community. Rather, it’s just one example of the many micro-communities that exist within our congregation. Many of the weekday morning and evening minyanim have their own flavor, profile and attendees. The people who help cook and prepare kiddushes have their own micro-community. The people who study Torah during Musaf are a special micro-community. The people who study on Tuesday mornings are a beautiful micro-community. Those actively involved in Sisterhood and Men’s Club are part of important micro-communities. The people who park their cars in our parking lot while they go biking together are a micro-community. The parents who hang out in the lobby on Sunday mornings are an informal micro-community. So many of our committees become small communities.

With almost 400 families, while Kol Rinah is not a large congregation, we’re not tiny either. The small communities in which we cook, and chat, and study, and daven, and plan, and work become the way we experience Kol Rinah. Noticing and naming (that is, having vocabulary for) what you’re a part of makes you appreciate it a little more. What are the micro-communities of which you are a part at Kol Rinah? How many are you in that you can identify? The next time you’re there, with those people, notice the micro-community, appreciate it, and maybe even express that gratitude out loud. 

And if you can’t identify a micro-community at the shul you’re a part of, you need to find one! I’m happy to help you, or just find a friend or two, or make a new friend and come to something.

It takes time to form the familiarity and ease that we so appreciate in a micro-community. It’s the stuff the texture of life is made of. It’s holy, sacred and precious. And it means that each person matters—that you matter.