Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 40

Together We Are Better!

November 13, 2020

Dear Holy Friends,

I hope this correspondence finds you doing well and in good health. We encourage you to continue to be safe and diligent as we unfortunately head into an increased wave of Covid-19 cases in our communities. Please let us know how we can support you.

We are thrilled to invite you to our ongoing evening programming. Let me remind you that this Monday evening at 8:00PM we will continue our “Quasi Jewish Film Festival.” We will view the first episode of an enthralling Israeli Reality-TV program, which deals with an effort to reconnect secular families with relatives who have become disconnected upon embracing a Charedi (Ultra-Orthodox) lifestyle. It’s really captivating!

This Shabbat marks the anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah! I remember being awake almost the entire night before the Bar Mitzvah. Now, you might think the cause of my insomnia was eager anticipation of being called to the Torah the next morning, however, it was simply because family friends had given me an LED clock-radio (how many of you remember those?) with glowing red lights. It was so fascinating to see the numbers change every sixty seconds!

The next morning, indeed, I was called to the Torah with my brother and we participated in services by chanting Torah and Haftarah. Back then, B’nei Mitzvah students did not formally lead sections of the prayers (that was done by superstar Cantors) nor did they offer a D’Var Torah (that was done by notable and renowned Rabbinical scholars).

Over the course of decades, most synagogues have changed the format of delivery of ritual practices. These days, students are expected to speak, to sing, and to lead liturgy. Family members are often responsible for distributing Torah honors to their guests, friends or relatives.

Similarly, when I first began my pulpit career, family members rarely spoke during funerals, the last Jewish rites of passage. These days, it is rare that the Rabbi gives the main eulogy. Rather, he/she offers summary remarks pulling together the comments of the family into a powerful and consoling Jewish message.

I believe that this evolution/transformation is fascinating. It teaches us that for any ritual to resonate, we, as formal synagogue leaders, need to exercise the concept of Tzimtzum (minimization). This is to say, that it is fine for us to step back and choose, thus empowering our membership to guide their own Jewish journeys.

Ultimately, in our day and age, collaboration between clergy and laity will bring the richest experience to our community. We are blessed with great clergy and a dedicated membership and can have confidence in the idea that Together we are Better!

In the spirit of Shabbat, and in honor of my Bar Mitzvah anniversary, I look forward to continuing our joy, our study, our celebrations and our great work on this amazing path of Jewish Life.

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD
201 562 5277

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