Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss

Parshat Shoftim
2 Elul, 5771
September 1st, 2011

A wonderful congregant told me the other day that she folk-dances regularly. We have a number of dancers at the shul – Israeli, square, and otherwise. She mentioned that her particular blend preserves and teaches folk dances from all over the world. One can even attend the annual folk-dance camp in Stockton, CA, where specialists teach various global dance traditions.
What strikes me is that there is an annual conference where dances are learned, and, perhaps more importantly, dance traditions preserved. Of course, when these dances were created, they were simply what everyone did. Dancing grew within communities as the heart of a social experience. There was no conference.
Today, people gather and work hard just to keep those dances alive.
The struggle to preserve local tradition is not limited to dance. I’d argue that it’s a facet of our age. It takes a great deal of time and patience, as well as stability, for local traditions to poke a sprout out of the ground, develop, and accrete the well worn shine that speaks of countless generations.
You and I do not know from stasis. We are rolling stones, more mobile than ever, changing more quickly than ever. Our age moves too fast to permit natural accretion over time.
I believe this is why the best innovation of our age is directed at recovering lost tradition. Farmer’s markets, sustainability movements, community-building – all are about regaining the richness lost in the speed of change.
These efforts are worth the work we put into them. They come neither easily nor effortlessly, but yet retain their gifts to each of us. “Return us, God, and we will return; make our days new like they were in the beginning.” Eicha 5:21  In our time, looking forward means looking back. 

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