Saturday, July 12, 2008

Phoenix Rising

Okay, so I'm being a bit over dramatic with the title, and the analogy is not the best since we did not rise from ashes, we chose to rebuild. But Shabbat services at Beth Sholom this morning had such great ruach--spirit--that seems to be heralding a renewal of our congregation as we find our place in the 21st Century.

It wasn't that big a crowd, about 150--after all, it is mid-July and many regulars are away. Yet there was lots of joy and singing and a generational span that for me marks the vibrancy of our community. We celebrated an auf ruf of a couple who will be married tomorrow in our sanctuary--the bride's family are long-time congregants of Beth Sholom. While there weren't a lot of teens--many are off on their summer journeys--we had a teenager read Torah with his grandfather beside him reciting the blessings. There were lots of little kids there with their families for our Munchkins and Mishpachah service.

One advantage of the summer months is that many congregants had friends and family visiting. As a bonus, we had one of our former congregants come back to visit. He and his wife left about five years ago to take a job in Atlanta. They now live in Belgium with their two little boys. Their presence added to the feeling of continuity we have managed to maintain even as we inhabit this new space.

This kahal has been through alot lately--new building, new rabbi, new aspects of our service. We continue to look out towards the changes we need to make in order to engage all who wish to join our community without shattering the ties to our past that so many find meaningful. This work will always be ongoing since the world around us is always in flux. But as in most spiritual work, it is the journey that is important, not the goal--which itself is in constant movement.

This is not something that must happen just at Beth Sholom. It is a paradigm that must be followed in the Jewish world as a whole. It is something that the Jewish people have grappled with for centuries. It is the Jewish tradition--from the rabbis of the Talmud through to our modern leaders -- to make our scriptures relevant in the world in which they live without the strong traditions that give our practice deep meaning.

Years ago, I went to a lecture by Rabbi Arthur Green where he said that each generation adds the oil from their fingers to the Torah as it passes through their hands. I believe it is that additional oil that keeps the light of Judaism alive. I like to think that with this renewal of our community, we at Beth Sholom are doing our part.

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