This Shabbat, we honored our Legacy donors (those who have pledged after-life gifts to our community) and chaverim/members who have maintained their commitment to our congregation for 15 years and more. There is so much to share about the weekend, which I'll do in my weekly message to our congregation, but I wanted to share just one thing today, the first day of the new week.
We begin the new week on Saturday night with a greeting: Shavuah Tov, a good week. Sometimes, we are really ready for a new week, but Judaism challenges us to feel a bit different - a tinge of sadness. That's one of the reasons we need spices at Havdallah - to wake us up, like holy-smelling salts, because we are so content to stay in Shabbat. This past Shabbat was one of those Shabbatot. We reminisced about our past, saw the beginning of our congregation through different lenses, and heard new stories. One of the things we recalled was about where our congregation met for Shabbat before our storefront home: at the auditorium at JARC on the Federation campus (this was before I became rabbi of the community). JARC is a group home for people seeking help with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It’s an incredible organization that we are blessed to have in our community. Because our congregation prayed there, a number of the residents used to join them for services. Once we moved to our current location, a couple of residents joined us for services as we arranged rides for them.
Last week, I met with the CEO of JARC, Jeffrey Zirulnick, who visited us at CSK. I told him about how JARC made such a difference for us and how we have missed our JARC "sacred guests", who could not join us due to the pandemic. Around three weeks ago, the residents were allowed to freely leave the campus, and Jeffrey asked if they could come to CSK for Shabbat services if they arranged for transportation. I told him they’re always welcome, and we’d love to see them. We didn’t set a date but hoped it could work out.
As I walked up to shul on Shabbat morning, I saw around 20 JARC residents walking along with me. As we celebrated our accomplishments, we were blessed to have a reminder of where we came from, and the values that we have held to through these years. They brought so much ruach and joy with them that all of us left inspired beyond words.
During my sermon, I spoke about the passing of a true Gadol/great rabbi: Rabbi Harold Kushner. I recalled a story that I heard on my friend and colleague’s podcast Rabbi Ed Bernstein, My Teacher:
Rabbi Kushner spoke to his granddaughter's Day School class, and they asked him a question, “Rabbi, where is God?” He told them, “that’s not the right question - the correct question is: when is God? What has to be happening for you to feel that you are in God’s presence?
I ended by talking about our raison d'être, our purpose.
We are here to help people find God in the when; in holy moments.
I am grateful to have spent a few brief hours of my life in those holy moments this week; I will cherish them always. Now we begin the journey to create more of them.