rabbi of Congregation B'nai Tikvah, I understand our shared goal
to be the creation of a warm, welcoming, and vibrant Jewish community.
My vision is of a community that supports lifelong Jewish learning and
spiritual growth through study, prayer, and action; a community that
supports its members in their celebrations and their sorrows; a community
that openly wrestles with the tension between innovation and tradition
in Jewish life; a community that invites its members to embark on a
journey together that is imbued with holiness and meaning.
As rabbi, what is my role in this shared endeavor?
One of my favorite teachings on Jewish leadership comes from the medieval
Jewish commentator, Abraham ibn Ezra, on Numbers 11:25. In that verse,
we read: "Then God drew from the spirit that was on him" --
that is, Moses -- "and placed it on the seventy elders."
While it might seem that Moses lost in this transaction, ibn Ezra takes
issue with the notion that Torah is a zero-sum game, that the elders'
gain is Moses's loss. Instead, he likens Moses to a candle in a menorah.
A candle can light many other candles without diminishing the light
that it itself gives. So too, according to this voice from our tradition,
Moses' spirit overflowed onto the seventy elders, kindling their ability
to give voice to holy teaching without diminishing Moses himself.
This Jewish reflection on leadership inspires me, as a rabbi, to recognize
that my role as a teacher in Israel is not to be the sole custodian
of Jewish knowledge and responsibility in my community. Quite the opposite.
Far from being diminished with the kindling of each new flame, I believe
that helping others attain Jewish learning and take on Jewish responsibility
will cause our community - and the Jewish people - to shed a far greater
light than any one person could alone. It is my prayer that our shared
sacred journey will build for each member of B'nai Tikvah a spiritual
home that is truly radiant.
Rabbi Michael Fessler
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Before reciting the Shema and proclaim God's oneness we gather the four corners of our tallit (prayer shawl together). One interpretation of this practice is that when we gather the tzitzit (fringes) together we unify the physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional aspects of our selves. In this profoundly spiritual moment we recognize that all aspects of our being are integral to the whole and must be nurtured and embraced. In order to achieve wholeness and a sense of inner peace we must gather in all of the various aspects of who we are.
Similarly, in building a community we must embrace all members and recognize the unique contribution that each person makes. Our synagogue community is multifaceted, and each aspect of community life must be attended to. Whether one seeks spiritual sustenance from prayers and home rituals, intellectual stimulation from the study of our sacred texts, emotional connection through participation in community events and by supporting members through difficult times or practical satisfaction by contributing to the construction and maintenance of our community's physical space, each person is an important piece of the communal puzzle. If any piece is missing the puzzle cannot be completed.
As Congregation B'nai Tikvah continues to flourish it is my goal to help each member enhance his or her particular connection to Judaism and contribute to the vitality of the community, thereby increasing holiness in the world.
Rabbi Miriam Hyman
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