Rabbi Message

Rabbi’s Column in Bi-Monthly “Messenger”

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Dear Friends,

Several people I know shared with me the fact that they had recently attended, or were planning to attend, their 50th high school reunions. I must admit that I have not attended any of my own high school reunions, but I have occasionally connected and reconnected with some of my fellow classmates, and I have wondered how others have fared over the years.

Despite the passage of time, I do remember my high school graduation well, probably because the graduates marched into the auditorium in order of size. I was so very grateful that there was at least one student, and possibly two, who were shorter than I was, so I did not have to lead the parade….

It is worth noting that class reunions are usually based on the year that a class graduated from the school, not on the year that the class entered the school – and with good reason!

There is an interesting parallel in our holiday cycle. If you think about Passover– the celebration in which we retell the story of the Exodus, and the miracles that occurred in order to make us into a people– it is easy to see Passover (marking the time when our people entered into relationship with God as a people) as analogous to a class entering a new school. When the first Passover was observed, we were at the beginning of our journey, learning how to be a people in relationship with God. Seven weeks later, following a lot of hard work, and many disappointments and frustrations, we arrived at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. This is when we received our “diploma” from God. This is when we graduated. And, this is what we celebrate on Shavuot– which is also known as “Chag Matan Torah”– the holiday of the giving of the Torah.

But, what next? When we graduate, we close the door on one part of our personal history. But, using what we have learned during our years at school, we look forward to the future and to fashioning our individual lives based on the knowledge and the skills we have acquired during our time in school. The question “What next?” may also seem daunting. Fortunately, we have Torah to help us meet the challenge of this moment.

As the people of Israel received the Torah, they may have rejoiced at their liberation from slavery in Egypt, but they also looked forward to “entering the Promised Land.” They had a goal for the future. They had a quest which would shape their lives in the future. They had an ideal for which to strive.

The concept of “entering the Promised Land” is not only a physical quest for a central place for our people, it is also a metaphor for the hopes we carry with us in our hearts; for the moments of anticipation, of preparation, and of finally feeling that we have arrived somewhere that is, not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally significant in our lives. The Promised Land represents a place that is inspiring; that is within our grasp, within eyeshot; that is at hand…Yet, we know in our hearts, that even when we physically enter the Promised Land, we will discover more and more levels of engagement that will be necessary in order for us to mine its full potential and to appreciate fully the gift of the Land….Such is our feeling when we graduate and look forward to the future and to its unknown potential….

Our Sages teach us that prayers should touch our hearts and help us to navigate the paths of our lives. In their wisdom, our Sages taught us: “Ayzeh ben olam ha-ba? Ze haSomech geulah li’tefillah [Who merits a place in the world to come? One who follows the Geulah (the blessing of Redemption) immediately with the Evening Tefillah (the Amidah prayer].” That is to say, that when we pray and refer to the original redemption from Egypt and to our past, we should immediately continue with the Amidah prayer in which we mention Jerusalem, the Promised Land, and ourc hopes for the future!

Our Sages, in their wisdom, understood that being firmly grounded in our past enables us to dream big dreams for the future and to make the creative leaps necessary to imbue our lives with meaning, and to bring all of us closer to the ultimate redemption as it was envisioned by our prophets – to a world of peace and of greater understanding; to a deeper appreciation of the enormity of creation and of the potential for an even greater redemption that has yet to have been fulfilled.

With this in mind, I congratulate all of our graduates, at all levels of education and accomplishment, and I invite us all to celebrate our past, our heritage, and our future together on Shavuot and in our daily lives!

Mazal tov to our graduates and to their families!

I take this opportunity to wish all of us a joyous Shavuot holiday and many simchas in the future!

Rabbi Gilah Dror, Holder of the
Dr. Bernard A. Morewitz Rabbinical Chair

 

Spotlight on Torah

“When God created the first human being, God gave him a tour of all the trees of the Garden of Eden.  God said: “See My works, how pleasant and how fine they are!  And all that I have created, I created for you.  Make sure that you do not ruin and destroy My world, for if you spoil it, there is none who can repair it after you.”

(Midrash Rabbah, Kohelet 7:13)

“Visiting the sick is a mitzvah that has no limit. Whoever visits the sick removes one-sixtieth of the illness.”

(Nedarim 39b)

Spotlight on Torah

purim-sml“…with the beginning of Adar rejoicings are increased.”

(BT Ta’anit 29a)