This week’s parsha, Ki Teitzei, reminds us of how we are to behave as we go out into the world and interact with others. Whether friends, family, acquaintances or those Torah refers to as “enemies,” we are to keep others’ needs in mind with each breath and step.

 As I read the portion this week I was reminded not only of our code of behavior, but also of the many roles and responsibilities each of us has in life. The parsha speaks of our responsibilities as parents, as neighbors, as spouses, siblings, conquerors, children, and individuals in relationship with G-d.

 Yesterday I participated in the first meeting of one of the program committees of our agency. As I prepared for this meeting, I thought about who would be joining us around the table. Some had been involved with the professional development work of the Friedman CJE for a long time; others were joining us anew. Some had been consumers of our services, others lay leaders in a local institution. We had, I knew, intentionally invited a diverse group.

Yet, I knew that none of those who would be joining us truly only held one role. As the parsha reminds us, we all wear many different “hats” in life. We do not “check one hat at the door” when we step into another. These virtual “hats we wear” are never off of our heads or out of our thoughts.

What we learn, think, and say is always impacted by our collective experiences and responsibilities. These hats serve as lenses, and it is, I think, helpful to occasionally pause and remind ourselves and share with others the roles and perspectives we bring to our work.

 So, as we began the meeting we had paper hat cut-outs around the table. We asked each member of the group to take a pile and invited them to label each cutout with the “hats” they wear. Telling the stories of our hats became our introduction.

We heard much from each member of our group; things we never would have learned had we only asked people to introduce themselves in a more traditional way. This brief activity fostered the start of real relationships, which we will need as we wrestle with big questions in the months ahead.

After the meeting people did not head for home nor did they spend their time together re-analyzing the meeting. There was, instead, the buzz of friendly conversation spurred by the hats introduction.  Someone had a job lead for someone else because of the knowledge gained through our unique introductions.

Our community is strengthened when we take time to learn about each other. Our collective wisdom is all the richer because of the many “hats” we bring to our work together. May we always ensure we take the time to do so for Jewish life is truly all about relationships.