What do we stand for? Why do we struggle so hard to continue our independent
existence and to preserve our unique identity? What is the heart and soul of Temple
Each one of us may answer these questions in a different way, emphasizing
different aspects of synagogue life and prioritizing different values. Even so, are there
points of connection where are worlds overlap? I think so.
I believe that we are about meaningful prayer, engaged learning, and community.
These heart-felt beliefs permeate every service, every event, and every learning
experience at Temple Beth David. And they did not originate with any one person.
They emerged from the hands that built our Temple building, the people who took out
second mortgages on their homes so they could have a synagogue, the time and
energy of so many volunteers, and the voices of everyone who enters our sacred space.
Meaningful Prayer: Our Temple Beth David community is a house of prayer and
a nurturing place that encourages mitzvot to flourish. Unlike the JCC, where we may
work out our bodies, or the UJA-Federation, where we may convene for cultural events,
or any other institution of Jewish civic life, Temple Beth David is the place where we
address the spiritual strivings of our members every Shabbat. Although we preserve the
traditions of our past, we also seek a higher purpose and meaning in life through the
meditations of our minds, the prayers of our hearts, and the work of our hands.
Engaged Learning: Although we did not name ourselves the “People of the
Book” (this term was coined by Islam, and adopted by the medieval Jews), we all study
and express our own “Torah” — our own sparks of learning. In this context, “Torah”
means not only the Five Books of Moses, but all of Jewish learning. Study of and
familiarity with our sacred tradition is the starting point for an engaged Jewish identity.
Whether we learn through our chavurot, animated discussions at shul, or attending
classes, it is incumbent upon all of us to make the traditions of our people come alive
with a pressing relevance. Torah, while it is our unique, sacred inheritance, bears a
message for all of humanity. Thus, our tradition of living torah informs both our
particular identity and our shared humanity.
Community. Community includes our Temple Beth David members, the modern
state of Israel and the entire people of Israel. A contemporary Jewish identity that does
not serve its members’ spiritual needs, relate to the State of Israel, and include world
Jewry is somehow incomplete. To be Jewish means to understand our personal destiny
as part of the historical Jewish narrative and world-wide circle of concern. Hospital visits,
shiva calls, and Shabbat are as much a part of this global and local sense of belonging
and shared responsibility as communal celebrations and generous giving.
There is much more to say and so very much more to do. Beginning in January, I
will begin teaching a mid-week Torah class in the afternoons, — “Torah” being defined in
its most inclusive sense of encompasssing all of Jewish learning. Throughout the year,
we will also continue our monthly exploration of Jewish cultures across time and space
once a month on the third Shabbat of the month. And, I am very much looking forward
to beginning a learners’ minyan to engage as many of our voices as possible in prayer.
Our Jewish mystical tradition teaches that “God, Torah and Israel are one.”
When we join together to pray, study or engage in community activity, we invite God into
our midst by seeking a higher truth and deeper meaning. That is what motivates and
defines us. That is the essence and the commentary of our lives. That is who we are.