Why eighteen? Because that number is associated with life; the word "Chai" has a Hebrew numeric value of 18.
This month, we celebrate the completion of the first cycle; we have discussed one of those 18 values each month for the past 18 months! There is a Jewish tradition of having a celebration when completing study of a body of literature; after a tractate (major chapter) of Talmud, for example. After completing the reading of each of the five books of the Bible we recite the words: "Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazek," which is translated as "Strength, strength and let us be strong." Even if this study was done alone, we use the term "let US be strong."
Next month we begin again, discussing the first on the list of 18 values, but this month I want to comment briefly on the concept of ‘strength' and why we celebrate completion of a cycle of study in this way.
Jewish tradition regards strength as being much more than physical (although healthy eating and exercise to maintain the body have been an important part of our tradition for a long time). Rather, strength is seen as the kind of fortitude necessary to do things that are difficult, which challenge our assumptions about ourselves. When we, as an organization, establish a new and innovative program, like the Honey Do Home Helper program, we ask whether we have the necessary staff and administrative infrastructure to launch such a venture.
But, more importantly, we ask whether we have the strength of vision, depth of information, and breadth of community support necessary to carry this (or any) new venture through the initial phases of development. We remember that the kind of strength we need is PLURAL…we do not say ‘let ME be strong." When we work together as an organization, supported by a community that is working together with us, helping a community of people who are helped by the services we provide, only then is our collective strength increased. So may it be!!!
And Speaking of Working Together: Rabbi Min Kantrowitz appeared last week on KASA TV's New Mexico Style program to provide A Passover Education to hosts Nikki Stanzione and Kristen Van Dyke.
Rabbi Kantrowitz explained what Passover means, and described the rituals and traditions of a Seder.
She explained the meaning of each item on the Seder Plate, and talked about her book Counting the Omer, a Kabbalistic Meditation Guide.