We have just completed the cycle of our High Holy Day festivals, culminating in the joy of Sukkot and Simchat Torah. On Sukkot, our autumn harvest, we reap the bounty of the fields, and gather in the spiritual fruit of our long hours of prayer and reflection. On Simchat Torah we complete our reading of the Torah, only to begin again, a reminder of the endless natural cycle of endings and beginnings, and the enduring wisdom of our Tradition and its teachings The last word of the Torah is Yisrael, Israel, and its first, Bereishit, Beginning, its final and opening letters, lamed and bet, spell Lev, Heart.
I want to extend a personal Thank You to the very many SWESRS members who contributed to making our Yamim Noraim such a huge success in unprecedented circumstances. On Simchat Torah this year we honoured, not individual Chatanim and Kallot, but four important groups of volunteers in our community: our Choir, our Care Team, our Phone Tree and grocery deliverers, and our Council. Thanks to their time, effort and dedication they have helped us to stay in touch as a community through the pandemic, they have lifted our spirits, performed acts of gemilut chasadim/caring and compassion, guided us through troubled waters, and played a significant role in continuing the work of sustaining, nourishing and building our community, even in times such as these. They are our lev, the beating heart of SWESRS.
During our Simchat Torah morning service, we heard appreciations from those who have benefited from the work of our volunteers, and also from volunteers themselves about why they volunteer, and what they get from volunteering. Here are the words of Corinne Fisher, one of our Phone Tree and Grocery Delivery Volunteers during Lock Down, showing how volunteering for SWESRS can be a truly life-changing experience:
‘All I can say is that I’ve been helping my assigned couple since lockdown began way back in March and have now built up a lovely relationship with both of them. We speak weekly for a catch up and a good old chin wag. I continue to shop for them and it gives me peace of mind and a sense of fulfilment that I can help make their days a little easier in these troubled times. When I was made redundant earlier this year, it was partly my relationship with these 2 elderly SWESRS members that pushed me towards my new career choice at the old age of 48 to become a community carer. I realised that I loved being able to give something back and wanted to experience that feeling of making a difference every day so I thank them for helping me make a life changing decision.’
Whatever our age, however much time we have available, we can all make a difference. As we begin our new cycle of Torah readings this Shabbat Bereishit, may we all be blessed with good health and happiness, with renewal, with strength and with the will to make a difference this 5781.
Shabbat Shalom and Shanah Tovah; Stay Safe and Be Well,