DARCHEI SHALOM
(Translation: Pathways of Peace)

Parasha Matot-Masei

Tori Zissman, July 29, 2022

What name would you choose for a new minyan? Do you feel the name should be Hebrew? Do you prefer it to be English? Maybe a combination of the two hits the right note? What about including a suggestion of location?

I’ll be the first to admit that the name Minyan Darchei Shalom presents challenges. The words minyan and shalom are straightforward enough. The word minyan is so widely known that it was counted as a legitimate word in the NYT Spelling Bee puzzle the other day! It is the word darchei that is difficult. It is tough to pronounce, and it is no treat to spell either. That wacky chaf sound lacks a matching letter in the English alphabet.

 

Darchei Shalom means “paths of peace.” It is not by accident that the plural form of the word derekh is used. The name asserts that there is not a single, right way to engage Jewishly. Members of this community are on individual journeys, each with unique and compelling twists and turns.  Every person engaged with this kehillah seeks a personal balance of prayer/tefillah, learning/limud and relationship/kehillah that will lead to just the right amount of supportive community engagement, exciting intellectual enrichment, and meaningful spiritual peace.

 

In the parasha this week, the leaders of the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Manasseh approach Moses and ask if they might stop and settle where they are, rather than crossing the Jordan River with the rest of the tribes. Moses is not pleased. The request appears to put the needs of a few tribes ahead of the needs of the people as a whole. The exchange highlights the tension between advocating for ourselves as individuals and seeing ourselves as part of a larger, shared enterprise. As Rabbi E. Noach Shapiro asks in a thought-provoking d’var, “In formulating our own identities as individuals of action and consequence within the Jewish people, how do we figure out in what direction to throw our limited energy and resources? When should we sublimate personal considerations in deference to the collective good?” In the Torah, the tribal leaders assure Moses that they will help the others settle in Israel before they return to work their own land. Do We Have to Cross the Jordan? | My Jewish Learning

With the actions of Reuven, Gad and Manasseh in mind, let’s go back to that word minyan. In a basic sense, it is a quorum of ten people coming together for prayer. The word has also come to name a more organized group of individuals engaged in lay-led services, such as the Newton Centre Minyan. For some, the word minyan conjures a group of passionately knowledgeable folks, well-versed in the mysteries of the various texts and services. This can make some reluctant to step forward to be part of a minyan community. They don’t feel “smart enough.” They are unsure what resources they bring to the enterprise. It is also true that among the “leaders” there can be impatience for those who bring a different or limited background to the service.

 

Yet it is a basic truth about minyanim that every individual matters. I recently read a powerful piece written by a Chabad rabbi about minyanim. Rabbi Shmuel Kogan writes, “Upon pondering this concept for a moment, one comes to realize a great truth: the power of each individual Jew. There can be a group of nine of the greatest Jews, men who complete all of the commandments and understand the depths of the Torah’s secrets, yet they do not have the ability to complete a minyan on their own. However, add to the group the simplest Jew, someone who perhaps cannot properly read his prayer nor does he really understand what he is saying, yet when he walks into the room he has now transformed the entire group and made them complete—a minyan. It is because of him that they are now able to recite those parts of the prayer that can be read only with a minyan. Never underestimate the potential of the individual Jew.  – www.chabad.org

 

In other words, my engagement with Darchei Shalom matters as much as yours – and vice versa. Each of us has the ability to make the minyan “complete.” As this minyan’s second year begins, let’s take a moment to recall Darchei Shalom’s three pillars:

  • Tefillah (Prayer) – We are committed to creating an uplifting spiritual prayer experience grounded in Torah and Halakha.

  • Limud (Learning) – We are committed to nurturing a supportive atmosphere that is self-organized and offers various opportunities for learning and participation.

  • Kehillah (Community) – We are committed to forming and strengthening friendships and providing support to one another through times of challenge and times of simcha.

 

With the calendar bending toward the High Holidays, it is time for reflection and recommitment. Please consider recommitting yourself to Minyan Darchei Shalom. Following are suggestions for ways to support the Darchei Shalom community. You may think of others – all ideas are welcome!

 

Donors:

Renew your financial commitment to the minyan. Darchei Shalom does not charge dues. Generous voluntary support from the community/kehillah allows the minyan to rent lovely spaces from Temple Shalom in which to gather and pray together. Donations can be made through www.darcheishalom.org.

 

Do-ers

To truly grow and thrive, Minyan Darchei Shalom needs more than donors. Those who “do” are even more critical to the success of DS programming. Ten people may constitute a minyan, but it takes more than ten people to keep things feeling healthy and vibrant. Take a moment to consider the list of suggested actions below.

 

ATTEND

  • Read the Friday email (rescue it from your Spam folder when necessary)

  • Put the DS dates into your personal/family calendar

  • Commit to attend one social event this coming year

  • Commit to attend two Sunday minyan services this coming year

  • Commit to attend three Shabbat services this coming year

  • Celebrate Jewish holidays with Minyan Darchei Shalom

LEARN

  • Borrow a prayerbook from the minyan and follow along during services

  • Research the options and choose a prayerbook to purchase

  • Pick a prayer that you know “by ear” and practice the Hebrew at home

  • Read the Torah portion for the week and share a question you have about it at kiddush

  • Revisit the Torah/Haftorah of your bar/bat mitzvah and chant it for DS – you’ll feel like a kid again!

  • Honor a loved one in life or in memory by preparing a d’var for the Friday email

LEAD

  • Pose a question for the kehillah to learn about together.

  • Lead a prayer or a portion of a prayer during a Shabbat, Sunday or Kabbalat Shabbat service

  • Coordinate a social event – bike ride, woodland hike, book swap, cooking lesson, social action activity. If you have an interest, share it with the community/kehillah

 

In any Jewish community, it takes ALL working together to create a vibrant kehillah that generates warmth and resonates with intention. The allocation of your limited time and resources to Minyan Darchei Shalom will be deeply appreciated and will help ensure that Minyan Darchei Shalom grows stronger in the coming year.