By Jonathan Karas
The Shavuot Retreat in Bont-Goch was planned as a gender balanced, diverse weekend of learning. Due to a concatenation of misfortunes it became the outline of Jack Rosenthal play. At the end, four men of differing ages and backgrounds on various roads to, in and around Judaism found themselves on a Mount Sinai in West Wales reading the Torah in the sunshine as a herd of cattle listened. The cows were particularly impressed by the commandment that they too should not work on Shabbat (the sheep were indifferent). But how to get to Mount Sinai?
The comedy started a couple of days before. Rabbi Daniel, Daniel Mackintosh and Martin Dives drove bewildered for many hours in the rain around the more depressing bits of Celtic Britain looking for my house. There had been a certain vagueness in the directions they had been given (for which I take full responsibility). After arriving in Bont-Goch, the journey to Sinai became slightly more structured. It took in Torah study, Yoga, singing, cooking and eating, walking, more cooking and eating, silence (I believe younger readers might describe it as “chilling”), laughing, serious discussion (both formal and informal) and live streaming to community Builders who had gathered at Naomi's house in London.
As in a drama, each of the protagonists in the Retreat learned something about themselves and about each other. The experience also provided an insight into how we might build a community. A successful community depends on an unspoken trust between its members. Events like the retreat are a good way not only of learning about ourselves. They provide a way of building the trust between individuals. For my part, from three people who were acquaintances, Martin, Daniel and Daniel have become people with whom I have an implicit understanding.
Of course, going on a retreat requires a commitment of time and the risk of getting lost in West Wales. It will not be to everyone’s taste. But as the community expands and new members arrive it will be essential to find ways of creating and building trust between us all - otherwise we will simply be members of an institution rather than builders of a community.