Posted on November 13, 2021
When I mentioned to one of you that we were having a rabbinic installation, you said: “Well, it is about time! How long have you been here now, 15 months?”
Thank you to everyone who worked to make this installation possible. Thank you for this beautiful tallit that I will treasure. Thank you for all that has been said, publicly and privately. I am touched and very appreciative. Thank you to all who are here in person and to all who are with us on livestream. There is more than one way to be part of the Temple Israel community.
It is true that we have been together longer than is typically true at a rabbinic installation. It is also true that it was a strange first year and that I got to know many of you first over zoom and the telephone before even meeting you in person. Nonetheless, at this point, we are familiar with each other. We know a bit about each other and what to expect from one another. I believe that makes this installation all the more meaningful.
In the time that I have been here and in listening to what you have said this morning, I feel very good that I have already begun to have an impact on this outstanding community. I look forward to continuing as we have begun. We have services — Shabbat morning, Friday night, weekday morning minyanim, holidays. We have learning — at services, at classes, at programs. We have social programs, we have communal support, we have multiple ways to access our Temple. One of my primary goals is facilitating connections of all sorts– connections between myself and the congregation, connections between different members of the congregation and each other; connections between the congregation and the outside world; connections between the congregation and Torah; connections between the congregation and God. I am working on it. I guess it is no accident that my Wednesday lunch time adult education class is called “Connections: Discussion about Judaism”. (Commercial break — it is going very well, the discussions have been meaningful, each class stands alone and you are welcome to join even if you have not yet come to any of them.)
I see my role as facilitating Jewish observance, teaching Jewish ideas, enriching your Jewish experience, making Judaism meaningful, being Jewish with you rather than for you. I am thrilled that there are those who read Torah or lead services this morning or recently for the first time. I encourage that!! I am thrilled that there are those who are newly wearing tallitot and I look forward to more of that. I love our Torah discussions and the depth with which you are willing to approach our tradition. I appreciate your questions and challenges and struggles with the tradition. Together we will keep that up.
At the end of our Torah portion for this morning, Yaakov and his father-in-law Lavan made a covenant with each other. They built a pillar of stones:
וַיִּקְרָא־ל֣וֹ לָבָ֔ן יְגַ֖ר שָׂהֲדוּתָ֑א וְיַֽעֲקֹ֔ב קָ֥רָא ל֖וֹ גַּלְעֵֽד׃
“Laban named it Yegar-sahadutha, and Jacob named it Gal-ed.”
Yegar-sahadutha is Aramaic for “this pile of rocks that serves as witness”; Gal-ed is Hebrew for “this pile of rocks that serves as witness”. In other words, Yaakov and Lavan each named the place the exact same thing, albeit in different languages. To me, that is a lesson in listening and understanding. They may have been using different words, but they agreed on the goal — the stones were to bear witness to their covenant. It is also a lesson on diversity — they each accepted each other’s language.
What are we doing here today, if not celebrating the covenant we have made together, me as your Rabbi, you as my Congregation? Like the pile of rocks called Gal-ed / Yegar-sahaduta, we are all witnesses to this covenant.
I pledge to continue to serve you as rabbi, to be with you in happy times and in sorrow, and most of all in regular times. I pledge to listen to you and pay attention to what you need. My office door is open and I have a listening ear.
And I expect you to be there with me, asking those questions, grappling with the davening, coming to classes and programs, stretching yourself to new goals, reaching out to each other, sharing, coming together. I look forward to how we can continue to challenge each other. It is great that so many of you are involved in the planning for the 100th anniversary –I ask you to show the same enthusiastic participation in our journey into our second century. I will be there with you; you need to be there with me.
Best of all, in making and witnessing this covenant, we can re-envision ourselves as one unified entity, the rabbi, the cantor, the board of directors, the congregation, all of us are Temple Israel. We are a we, we are connected, we are Temple Israel.
We have come through a great deal recently — a year without a rabbi at all, a global pandemic that is still with us, the loss of some much-beloved members. We are moving forward with energy and commitment. Our Temple Israel congregation has a lot to be proud of. We also have a lot to look forward to. Let us go forward together in strength. Hazak hazak v’nithazek.
I see my role as facilitating connections of many sorts. Connections between myself and you are very important to me — you can see that. If you would like to talk, my office door is open, I make house calls, and both the phone and zoom work well.
In the short time that I have been here and in listening to you this morning, I feel very good that I have already begun to have an impact on this outstanding community.
I have been impressed with the number of participants and the enthusiasm that has already been shown in preparation for the 100th anniversary of this congregation. I challenge you to show the same enthusiasm as we go forward into our second century.
I see my role as facilitating connections — connections between myself and the congregation, connections between different members of the congregation and each other; connections between the congregation and the outside world; connections between the congregation and Torah; connections between the congregation and God. I guess it is no accident that my Wednesday lunchtime adult education class is called “Connections: Discussion about Judaism”.