The Shofar, Temple Beth El’s monthly publication, keeps community and temple members up to date on what’s going on. Take a look at this month’s Shofar to see what’s coming up, or browse through the archives to see all that we’ve done!
Rabbi’s Ramblings (from the July Shofar)
“They marched from the mountain of the Eternal a distance of three days. The Ark of the Covenant of the Eternal traveled in front of them on that three days’ journey to seek out a resting place for them, and the Eternal’s cloud kept above them by day, as they moved on from camp.” (Numbers 10:33-34)
My esteemed New York colleague, Elliot Cosgrove, retells the following parable:
The owner of an antique store took on an apprentice. The owner managed the shop from the back of the store, leaving his young apprentice to meet the customers in the front.
To his family’s dismay, the owner, ever concerned about the welfare of his business, never saw fit to take a vacation. A customer would enter, and from the back of the store, the owner would eaves-drop on the customer’s conversation with the apprentice. “The price you offer for that antique is quite low,” the apprentice would say. “I will have to check with the owner.”
The owner would sadly shake his head in the back of the store, knowing that it was way too soon for a vacation.
Over time, the owner began to hear a slight shift in the apprentice’s tone. “The price you offer for that antique is far too low; my boss would never agree to that sum.”
Still, the owner would shake his head, knowing that his hour of freedom had yet to arrive.
Eventually, one day, from the back of his shop, the owner overheard the following exchange:
“The price you offer is far too low. I could never part with this antique at that price.”
In that moment, the owner knew that finally, it was safe for him to take his long-awaited and much-deserved vacation.
I know there is a great deal of trepidation about my leaving you. I know some hearts are broken. I know you wish me well. And I know it will not all be a walk in the park.
Yet the fact is that this congregation has always dealt pretty well with my occasional absences. There have always been some among you able to lead a service, or read from the Torah scroll, or deliver a dvar Torah. Our board has long been a “working board,” its members chairing or at least serving on various committees, which get the work of the synagogue done, from collecting dues to paying the bills, from running and teaching the religious school to covering adult Torah study clas-ses, from organizing acts of social justice to solidifying our presence in the community-at-large.
Certainly, there are things I do that no one can do quite the same way. But your new chapter is, like my own, an opportunity for you to expand your horizons, to experiment, and to grow in ways you might not have previously considered – both as individuals and as a congregation.
“Growth,” writes Rabbi Cosgrove, “depends on two parties acting together. One individual must let go, and the other must exhibit the quality of self-reliance.”
In our Torah portion, the Children of Israel are compelled to face the wide open expanse of their fu-ture. Physically and spiritually, they enter the midbar. Leaving Mount Sinai, they set out on their long journey toward the steppes of Moab and the banks of the Jordan River.
As Rabbi Cosgrove observes, the stories you will read over the next few weeks describe how the Children of Israel become the Adults of Israel. These stories also describe how God must continual-ly redefine the Divine relationship with the people, discovering when to hold on and when to let go.
“The desert is a frightening expanse, filled with pitfalls and the possibility of failure, “ he writes – yes – but those who are “wise and courageous know that it is actually ONLY in the Midbar that we can truly find ourselves…There is no task more essential to the human soul than coming into one’s own and letting those around you be given the chance to do the same.”
So please, think of our pending parting as a golden opportunity for you to truly be in the Midbar – a chance to really experience all the growth and transformation and self-realization that can only hap-pen there.
I wish you every possible blessing as we go our separate ways. Know that I carry each of you in my heart; that life will assuredly throw us together for occasional visits; and that you have made an in-delible impression on me, as I hope I have on you.
L’shalom ulivracha – for peace and for blessing, always your Rabbi Emerita,
Rabbi Cheryl Rosenstein