Looking out at our remarkable community today I am filled with wonder and joy. And, in the spirit of the day, more than a little yira. The awe, the sense of possibility and hope, is definitely mixed with more than a few moments of awareness that there is much to be done. We here at Temple Israel are, with all of our diversity and difference -- from religious school to day schools, from babies in toe to empty nesters, from teens to great grandparents -- we are here as one community. Joining together to give thanks for the strength and vision, for the dedication and love that has enabled our shul to thrive for generations. Even through the most difficult years a synagogue can endure, thanks to outstanding leadership and resolute faith in who we are and why our community is so important, Temple Israel has continued to be a beacon of all that a synagogue can be. While others struggle, we are still a center for Jewish prayer and education. A voice for the love and support for Israel. A home to comfort the bereaved, to welcome new life into our midst and to celebrate the movement from childhood to adulthood for literally thousands. Temple Israel is also a place to grapple with our individual spiritual journeys, to stretch in our own Jewish path, to grow as learners and do-ers. It is a place as much to comfort the troubled as it is to trouble the comfortable. A place to dream together about the better world we insist can yet come to be. And a place filled with God’s presence.
I want to ask you to take a moment to give thanks for all the labors of love that have brought us to celebrate this moment. With thanks in our hearts and joy in our unity, with a celebration of our diversity and a commitment to our future… let’s say Shehecheyanu.
There is a story about a new rabbi who was engaged to serve the well-known Polish-Russian-Jewish town of Chelm. The committee was stuck without a rabbi and a member of the search committee had heard of some young new rabbi who was applying for a position. While no one had had the chance to meet the new applicant, the committee member had been assured he was qualified. They had said in fact that the rabbi compared favorably to Tolstoy, and even Moshe Rabienu. Hired sight unseen, when the new clergyman arrived they were all a bit disappointed. He didn’t seem to be a great speaker, his wisdom lacked a certain depth, and he was not exactly the greatest talmid chacham who ever lived. So when the members of the town and committee came back to the person who had originally recommended the young man, he explained himself. Yes, he compares favorably even to Tolstoy, even to Moshei Rabbeinu. How? Well, he knows more Talmud and Torah than Tolstoy, and he speaks much better Polish than Moshe Rabbeinu ever did.
As the new rabbi, coming highly recommended, I am aware of how much this new role, this new community…
this new beginning for all of us is filled with the unknown. The unknowable. But I promise you this: no matter how much or how often I might disappoint, I hope to be there for you. I hope to learn from you and your experience. I pray that we will be together many years, growing and striving together as Jews. And continuing to reach even greater heights tomorrow.
Rabbi Ron Fish