Friday, September 16, 2022 / 20 Elul 5782

Shalom Chaverim,

This is a very important time of year for Jewish communities everywhere, and for our community as well. Many of you have already renewed your Temple Sinai membership for the new year. Some of you are becoming members again after a hiatus from the synagogue. And we are welcoming a few new members to our community as well.

Welcome and welcome back to you all!

Unlike the expression for greeting someone in English – “welcome” – to which the new arrival responds, “thank you”, the expression in Hebrew is quite different. It implies a sense of mutuality.

You say “bruchim habaim” to the newcomers: “blessed are they that arrive.” The newcomer responds with “bruchim hanimtzaim” which means “blessed be those who are present.”

Thus, a ‘welcome’ becomes a blessing that extends to everyone.

The bruchim habaim greeting is also powerfully optimistic:

Blessed are habaim – whomever or whatever is coming our way. 

The newcomer’s response is a reminder to focus on what’s at hand, the hanimtazim, those already present: Blessed are they whom I encounter now, whomever they may be. 

The most important aspect of the greeting bruchim habaim/bruchim hanimtzaim entails the idea of community:

Baruch haba” – welcome to the newcomer – is wholly incomplete without context. Welcome is pointless without someone or something to welcome you to. Thus, “Hanimtzaim” is that existing community which is open, inclusive, and embraces the new. It’s like putting your arms out for a hug….and then getting a hug back. You need both the initiative and the response for it to be a real hug.

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, speaks about greetings as blessings…or curses. 

As Am Yisrael, the People of Israel wait to cross the Jordan and enter the land of Israel, Moses commands them that, when they do arrive, the first thing they should do is erect a pillar to remind them of the words of the Torah. 

The 12 tribes were then to be divided into two groups, one to stand on Mount Gerezim, and one to stand on Mount Ebal.Between them would stand the Levites pronouncing the curses that would befall the people should they stray from the Torah, and all those on Mount Ebal would answer amen. Then the Levites would sing the blessings that would accompany allegiance to the principles of Torah, and all those on Mount Gerezim would answer amen. This was their greeting for arriving in the Land of Israel.

You can imagine the drama as the “amen” to blessings or curses echoed across the valley.

It makes me think about our own self-reflection as we prepare spiritually for the New Year and upcoming holidays: the great mix of anxious concern and yet nervous excitement: Any beginning can be either a blessing or a curse. 

Baruch haba—we don’t know what’s coming, but may it be for blessing; Baruch hanimtza, we may not even know ourselves what we are capable of, but may it be for blessing.

Really, it’s a choice, and the choice is in our own hands. Baruch haba -may we choose blessing and not a curse; and Baruch hanimtza – may we continue to look at what we have until we find that part of it which is good, that part which is for blessing.

This is a season of bruchim habaim, welcome to new arrivals, the new year, new experiences as the New Year begins…

…and it is a season of bruchim hanimtzaim, welcoming back those who are a part of our lives and recognizing the blessings of what we have already, while examining our deeds in preparation for the High Holidays.

This season is our opportunity to take even the things that are ‘curses’ – the aspects of ourselves we aren’t too proud of, the mistakes we’ve all made – and to turn even these in the direction of blessing during the coming year.

Bruchim Habaim: Welcome and welcome back! Blessed be your involvement in this community!

Bruchim HaNimtzaim: Blessed be you for welcoming us, blessed be the souls we meet and the time we share together

Bruchim Habaim v’HaNimtzaim: Blessed be all of you dedicated to making Temple Sinai a community of Torah, caring, support, Tikkun HaOlam, a center of Jewish culture and enrichment—a kehilat kodesh, a holy community.


Rabbi Michael