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Home From the Rabbi From the Rabbi - March 2020
From the Rabbi - March 2020 PDF Print E-mail
On Friday night and Saturday evening at URJ summer camps everyone gets together to sing and dance and share in a joyous sacred community.  There’s even a song called Kehillah Kedoshah – Sacred Community by Dan Nichols that says: “Each one of us must play a part, each one of us must heed the call, each one of us must seek the truth, each one of us is a part of it all.”
 
What does it mean to be a sacred community, for each of us to be part of it all? We live in a world in which we are all interconnected but in ways that are often shallow. So many people have hundreds of online friends but few truly genuine relationships.  In our increasingly individualistic and consumerist society it is harder and harder for many to create genuine community. And yet community is what we all yearn for and what we all need as human beings. 
 
This is why a synagogue community is so important. It is the ultimate Jewish answer to what it means not only to be in community but to be in a community with a purpose and meaning. Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, in Rethinking Synagogues: A New Vocabulary for Congregational Life (2006), writes: “The synagogue is a place for pursuing Torah, worshipping God, sacralizing relationships, healing the sick, and feeding the poor. It is a place where we know the presence of God among us and honor each other as made in God’s image (b’tselem elohim)... It is where we celebrate each other’s sacred stories.  It is where we emulate God.  Synagogue... is the set of sacred relationships that constitute the community and the equally sacred acts that flow from it.”
 
God does not dwell in a building any more than anywhere else.  But a synagogue building and synagogue community can bring the presence of God closer to us by connecting us to each other in a way no other place can.  A synagogue provides the opportunity to act together with holy purpose and with sacred meaning - in acts of tikkun olam as we help those in our community with mitzvah meals and those in need in our city with our social action work, in services, in learning, in sharing times of sorrow and joy with each other.  In all these ways and many more we connect to our higher selves and help others to do the same, bringing God’s presence into the world through those connections.  As we know from so many aspects of life the more we put into something the more we get out of it.  The more we do at temple, the more effort and support we expend in engaging in temple life, the more we feel a sense of ownership and the more we feel connected to God and each other.
 
As the Dan Nichols song concludes: “Each one of us must sing the song, each one of us must do the work, each one of us must right the wrong, each one of us must build the home, each one of us must hold the hope.”  May we all find greater purpose and meaning in our family of families as each of us heeds the call and work together as a sacred community to build our sacred home here at Congregation Beth Israel.  
Rabbi Ilan Emanuel

 

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