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5784 Theme: Havurah


havurah | חבורה

At the heart of the word havurah is haver, friend. Its root means connect or join – knots we tie, words we compose, joints anchoring a structure, friendships that sustain us. Aligned with our grassroots origins, through all the ways we each participate today, we are creating a havurah in which each human strand is valuable, unique and necessary.

We are re-learning to connect and creating new ways of doing so. And we are re-examining what it means to belong. We treasure the bonds that unite us, recognizing that some need to be strengthened while others need to be loosened as we honor who we each are and who, together, we are becoming.

How can each of us nurture and be nurtured by the bonds that form Havurah today?

Previous years' themes...

5783 Theme: Teshuvah

שְׁלֵמוּת וְשֶׁבֶר

Teshuvah | Returning

Teshuvah—repentance, though literally return—is the core practice of our most sacred season. It is also a foundational practice of our lives. The gates of teshuvah, say the sages, are always open. We can always choose to turn toward learning and growth, toward acknowledging harm, making amends and holding each other lovingly accountable. We return seasonally, daily, hourly.

Teshuvah means discovering our most essential and generous selves, remembering our deepest aspirations, and coming back to one another in new ways. As we return to community in person, each of us at our own pace, we can embrace this moment as one of genuine teshuvah.

We return to what is, not what was. How will we move forward toward our next incarnation—as individuals, as communities, and as a society? What must we bring with us, and what do we need to leave behind?

5782 Theme: Shleimut v'Shever

שְׁלֵמוּת וְשֶׁבֶר

Wholeness & Brokenness

Tradition tells that for the entire journey in the wilderness, alongside the second set of tablets bearing the ten commandments, our ancestors also carried the fragments of the first set which Moses had smashed. In our present time of rupture and fragmentation, this image reminds us to make room for the broken along with the whole — in our lives and in our world. Often we can find in the fractured places pathways to wholeness. What is broken can become the foundation for healing and regeneration.

In moments of brokenness, we can help one another find comfort amidst loss, meaning in the face of upheaval, and agency when our values have been breached. However brokenness manifests, we can support each other to turn toward it with compassion and courage, so that we might discover wholeness alongside or even within it.

5781 Theme: Nishmat Kol Ḥai

נשמת כל חי
The Breath of Every Life

We are sustained in every moment by our breath. When it is compromised or restricted, our lives are in jeopardy. Yet we mostly take it for granted until that occurs. This year’s theme, Nishmat Kol Ḥai: The Breath of Every Life, turns us toward fuller awareness and appreciation of this vital life force and all it sustains.

Neshamah means "breath" and also "soul." It is our essence, through which we are connected to one another and to all life. Nishmat Kol Ḥai asks us to listen closely for the breath that is not our own, to awaken to the preciousness of each breath and each soul.

Collectively, we are witnessing the tragic consequences of breath constricted, through illness and through violent oppression. All breath is not yet equally valued. Nishmat Kol Ḥai demands that we expand our notions of kinship and work to ensure that everyone can breathe freely, and every soul can flourish.

5780 Theme: Hineinu

Our theme for 5780 – Hineinu: We Are Here.


Our ancestors responded to calls at pivotal moments in Torah with Hineini, “Here I am.” Hineinu is how we answer the call to be present as we are needed in this moment, as individuals and as a community. We can say Hineinu by comforting each other amidst hardship and loss; by rejoicing together however possible; by listening and communicating honestly as we navigate discomfort; by finding each other amidst vulnerability; and by cultivating resilience and compassion in response to injustice, oppression, and despair. This is how we say Hineinu: We are here.

5779 Theme: Panim el Panim

Our theme for 5779 – Panim el Panim: Encountering One Another.

פָּנִים אֶל־פָּנִים

Panim el panim, literally “face to face,” directs us to recognize and honor how we live in relation to one another. From the intimate, one-on-one connections that exist within Havurah, to the broader partnerships and networks of which we are a part, this relationality is at the heart of who we are. To live panim el panim is to genuinely encounter one another, sometimes to affirm and sometimes to challenge.

When we build relationships with people from whom we differ as well as those like us, striving to know the other for who they are, we grow as individuals and enhance our potential as a community. Through meeting one another in this way, we make room for connection and holiness. And amidst tensions in the world, the notion of panim el panim challenges us to perceive our interdependence and build bridges however possible.

5778 Theme: Edut

Our theme for 5778 – Edut: Witness.


In selecting a theme, Havurahniks seek to find common language to help us consider what animates our community and to set an intention for the year. Our theme is both a conceptual framework as well as an operational commitment.

In this time in which we are confronting vastly divergent representations of reality, we need to continually notice, be willing to bear witness, and stay present with our own truths. This requires showing up, both physically and spiritually, and returning - over and over again.

One more outgrowth of this root is the word oded, “to encourage and strengthen.” Ultimately, the actions of returning, building continuity, and bearing witness create strength within us, as individuals and as a community. What encourages you to continually show up and to speak your truth? How do we create a community that strengthens our ability to know and testify about what is right and good? 

Tue, June 18 2024 12 Sivan 5784