For the past few days I have had the privilege of studying at a workshop at Yale Divinity School entitled: Joy and the Good Life. There were about 200 learners and scholars, and pastors, and one Reform Rabbi (yours truly) at the conference. We gathered together to discuss what the good life is and how to achieve it.
Ritual allows us to express abstract concepts through concrete acts. Ritual can play just as important a role today as it did in the time of the Temple. Our ancestors figured out ways to use ritual to bring us into alignment with God and our own spirituality.
When I was a little boy I loved to look at the stars and imagine flying in a spaceship between them. As I grew older and learned what light years were, I came to realize how long it would actually take to travel between the stars. The nearest star to Earth, other than our own sun, is Alpha Centauri. This star is 4.3 light years away. This means that traveling at the speed of light it would take approximately four and half years to travel there. Now this is all well and good for light, but for humans, outside of science fiction, at current speeds it would take about 40 years to travel there.
To the members of my Temple Beth David family
My name is Noah Rockoff. I will become a bar mitzvah on September 29th of this year. As part of my studies, I have chosen a mitzvah project that means a great deal to me.
How do we relate to God? One way is to see God as a being to be worshiped, as a being that is separate and removed from us. As it says in Psalm 92, “It is good to praise Adonai, to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High”. The God described in this Psalm is a God for which humans' only hope of connecting is through song. However, what if there were a different way to connect to God? What if the way we relate to God could be found not only in worship, but in our regular daily actions? What if we saw that through our actions we were actually emulating the actions of God? As it says in Psalm 77, “I will meditate on all your workings, and I will speak about Your deeds: God Your path is holiness.” In figuring out what God does and has done in the universe, and seeing how our actions are similar to those actions, we discover a different way of relating to God that does not involve worship.
Early this morning, Leslie, Susan and I braved the heat and humidity. We did a quick herb/cucumber harvest and staked the eggplants. This was especially necessary since the herbs were overgrown. Crabgrass has taken over the marigold border and some areas within the garden. We will address this sooner than later.
When the severe weather breaks, I’ll send out an email with the next harvest date.
Happy anniversary TBD! After this Shabbat it will officially be one year since I started working here. I was trying to think about what words would suffice to tell you how much you all have meant to me and my family this year. I want to express the immense feeling of gratitude I have in my heart. However, every time I try, the words just never seem enough. Then a teaching I often use struck me as the perfect way to communicate the amazing feelings I have on this one year anniversary of our journey together.
There is a parable in the Talmud that goes as follows:
In Judaism the role of witnessing is very important. The book of Leviticus says, “Any person able to testify as one who has seen or learned of the matter who does not come forward to testify is liable to punishment” (Lev. 5:1). Therefore, we are not only told that witnessing is important, it is actually a holy, sacred act. Yet, sometimes witnessing is not enough. Sometimes when we witness an injustice we feel compelled to act. We want to, in a sense, turn from witness to actor.
In our community we are given many opportunities to act for others. These opportunities are often referred to as Tzedakah, or more broadly, as acts of Tikun Olam. However, I would like to introduce another concept, Gimilut Chasidim- Acts of loving kindness.
How can we understand Gimilut Chasidim? Consider the following teaching from the Talmud: