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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.

Previous years' themes...

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? 

Thu, April 15 2021 3 Iyyar 5781