Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice - Proverbs 13:10b
First of all, I want to thank the entire congregation for the celebration last month of my first 18 years at Temple Sholom. I was touched to see so many who were able to be there for the dinner and service, or sent kind regrets; those who have contributed memories or thoughts to the scrapbook, and those congregational alumni who sent words to be read at the service. It was wonderful to be able to look back with all of you and now to continue to dream forward.
Speaking at the service, I was drawn to the depiction of the bush burning unconsumed on our Ark. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner explains that the miracle is not the bush itself, but that Moses took the time to notice that it burned without becoming burnt out. What is the secret of continuing to give light, to constantly renew oneself, without running out of fuel? That is my challenge at what may be the midpoint of my rabbinic career. How do I continue to inspire the congregation? By being inspired in turn.
At the service, I shared that I would like to spend time with you, as individual congregants, to discover what brought you into the congregation, what inspires you, and thereby, where we can all go together. As some congregants know, I am always happy to go to lunch. For those of you who are able to take time for lunch in our area, let’s find a time to sit down and talk. If lunch is not possible in your schedule, perhaps we can find time for coffee in a morning or evening, or on a weekend. I will be reaching out to some congregants - but there are a lot of you. If I have not gotten to you yet, please reach out to me.
Ben Zoma asks, “Who is wise? The one who learns from everyone.” (Pirke Avot 4:1) That is a rather large task, but there is a Torah that is each of us, and we teach by sharing who we are. As quoted above, Proverbs says, “Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice.” Advice is often freely given, and even without asking, but the learning behind that advice is only found through deeper listening.
In looking back over my past 18 years, we have talked about being a reflective congregation - on that learns from its experiences, and changes in order to grow. The way that we reflect is by knowing who we are. We are a congregation that cares about each other - not only to we show caring by paying attention to others in our community, but we build that community by deepening our ties. So, as I set out to learn from each of you - I challenge you to learn from each other as well. Be bold - approach a fellow congregant whom you know only in passing and invite them and their family over for Shabbat dinner. If you are a little less bold, then start up a conversation at an oneg or social event. You may have something in common. They may have a different opinion that expands your view of the world. Seek out their wisdom and honor it. Thank them for sharing.
When the sage Hillel was stumped for the answer to a question of Jewish law, he decided to crowdsource. He said, “But leave it to the Jewish people; if they are not prophets to whom God has revealed His secrets, they are the sons of prophets, and will certainly do the right thing on their own.” (Pesachim 66a). We are the great-grandsons of those prophets, and between us, we know the right thing as well, we just need to listen to each other to figure it out.
Rabbi Joel N. Abraham