Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 214

June 7, 2024 - 1 Sivan 5784

Parasha Bamidbar: Builders, not Congregants

Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and enjoying the beginning of the summer season! We look forward to you joining us tomorrow morning for Shabbat services, which will run from 10:00 am-noon. As always, the services will be available on our Zoom prayer link and be followed by a festive Kiddush. We are also thrilled to welcome Reverand Chani Getter, who has done amazing work in both the LGBTQ+ and Hassidic communities, as our guest speaker, this Shabbat. She is a dear friend and colleague and I know that her presence will be uplifting and our conversation will be fascinating!

Additionally, we thank our dear member and friend, Myra Brodsky, for her Mitzvah of sponsoring this Shabbat’s Kiddush in celebration of the memory of her late husband, Leonard. May Myra be blessed with loving memories.

Next week, we will celebrate Shavuot and the receiving of the Ten Commandments with services on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Yizkor will take place at about 10:45 am on Thursday, but we will have cheesecake at the Kiddush on both dates, so please join us for this important celebration.

As you know, leadership transition is the passing of the torch from one leader to another. In some cases, transitions are planned and expected, while in others, the change may be surprising or even unexpected. In all cases, transitions call for a well-considered, strategic approach to communicating the change to stakeholders. Remember, even our biblical superstar Moshe Rabeinu, Moses our Teacher, stood in the desert and passed the mantle to Joshua for the next stage of the people’s journey to the Promised Land.

During my tenure, CBIOTP has maintained a vision of creating a sanctuary of inclusion, learning, prayer, joy, and uplift. We have continually pushed ourselves to offer you the highest quality of programming and the most inspiring of prayer services.

As I assess our current state of affairs, I am beyond thrilled with what we have established. Despite COVID and a merger attempt, we have maintained our dignity and positive disposition. We have hosted phenomenal adult education series, welcomed talented musical guests, faithfully observed Shabbatot and Holidays, celebrated B’nei Mitzvah, baby namings, weddings, welcomed new members, and dedicated ourselves to learning Torah at an advanced level. Furthermore, we have explored the depth and meaning of ancient texts from a Jewish lens while keeping up to date on often troubling contemporary affairs.

Our strategy, as we move forward, is to build on our myriad of successes to date.

As such, you should feel reassured that, along with the lay leadership, I have led the vetting process of our rabbinic candidates. I have personally interviewed them to make sure they have the necessary skills, motivation, and Ruach (spirit) to be the next leader. We have extended invitations to four of them to visit our Bimah on June 15, 22, 29, and July 6 to lead our Shabbat morning services. I will not attend services on these days to give each of the rabbis the space to demonstrate their style and shine without the pressure that might come from my presence. I hope you will be able to attend services on these days, so you can meet the candidates and make a fair comparison among them to see which one would be best for the synagogue. There will be more information about each rabbi over the coming weeks, so please keep on the look-out for it.

As we warmly welcome these qualified, intelligent, and personable candidates, our goal must be to “capture the new leader’s voice.” Let’s find out who they are, what motivates them, and the depth of their passion in representing our holy community and building on our strong foundation. They are all unique and terrific.

As I consider my work here at CBIOTP, I am reminded of the concluding section of Talmud Berachot, which shares (with poetic liberty and license I am invoking):

Rabbi Elazar said that Rabbi Ḥanina said: Your congregants, as Torah scholars, increase peace in the world and joy on earth, as it is said, “And all your congregants [Banayikh] shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace and glory of your community” (Isaiah 54:13).

The Sages interpreted this verse homiletically: “Do not read your congregants [Banayikh], but rather your builders for tomorrow’s future [Bonayikh].”

The greatest gift you can offer me is to contemplate the meaning of the picture at the top of this page and stand up to the Talmudic challenge of becoming a builder of tomorrow’s brighter future. Continue the holy and sacred mission that we have worked on so diligently together. Be grateful for community. Bring a friend to the synagogue. Be part of CBIOTP’s success.

I look forward to welcoming you at the synagogue and enjoying a phenomenal Shabbat tomorrow morning and a meaningful Shavuot next week!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD, Hon DM.
Tel: 201-562-5277

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