Dvar Torah Upon Being Installed as Rabbi of Congregation Netivot Shalom
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Birshut Ishti Morati (my wife, my teacher), Avi Rabi uMori (my father, my rabbi, my teacher), my dear Savta (grandmother), Rabi Rei'I uMori Rabbi Artson (my rabbi, my friend, my teacher), cherished friends and teachers, Kehilati HaK'dosha (my holy community):
There is no honor higher for me than being partner in love and life with my precious Liz, and in being father to Ariel Shlomit, Moshe Tzvi and Raya Meital. In their arms I am full. And in touch with the Divine.
The only calling in my life that can compare to that one is an unconditional love for and commitment to the Jewish people, and in adding health and justice to the world we share.
And in this sacred home, the loving community known to the world as Netivot Shalom, all my loves live together.
My friends, it was exactly one year ago this week, during Parashat VaYak'hel-Pekudei, that I came with my family to explore a possible relationship with Congregation Netivot Shalom. I remember that Shabbat very well. We had almost three children and so many dreams. So very many dreams.
One year later we have been blessed by God beyond our dreams with our three precious children, and are blessed by God beyond our dreams to call this community our family. From the very first day we arrived, we have been loved and held and supported.
And what makes us happiest is that, despite my public role, here at shul we are a family just like any other, joyful to be with our community, a community that spans every generation and starting point. We are a holy community that celebrates each other unconditionally. Jews and non-Jews call this holy place home. We celebrate our diversity of race, the spectrum of sexuality, the incredible blend of spirituality and personality each of us brings. There is no prerequisite to being part of our community here at Netivot Shalom.
The message I brought with me one year ago was my personal dream for the holy shul community I has always thirsted for. I didn't know I was simply holding up a mirror, already speaking as part of the dream of Netivot Shalom with a message I craved and continue to crave so deeply.
The very end of this week's Parasha contains an exquisite, painful description of the dedication of the holy desert sanctuary, the Mishkan: "...When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of God filled the Mishkan. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the God filled the Mishkan... over the Mishkan the cloud of God rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. (from Ex. 40:33-38)"
These are the last words of Shemot (Exodus). The person who wishes most to be near God can't find the room. Feels uninvited. The holy places closes him out.
The very first word of VaYikra (Leviticus) contains a peculiarity. In the word "VaYikra/And God called", the letter "Aleph" is smaller than the other letters. This might escape notice for some, but when I first entered the sanctuary of Netivot Shalom I looked up and saw the Aleph of the Ner Tamid, our Eternal Light. God's Call for our community is one of tzimtzum (contraction), of making room in our holiest place for those yearning for comfort, safety, and holiness.
That Aleph, that small Aleph is both God's contracting and our glorious gift to the world.
The mishkan wasn't complete until God did tzimtzum, thereby granting Moses his own place. My heartfelt plea is that we should recognize that our precious Mishkan here, our holy community will only be complete when we remember to perform acts of Chesed, an indescribable emotion that can perhaps best be translated as overflowing, boundless, love. And Chesed is the way we will - we must - continue to share our space with all those who seek the comforting presence of God.
I was, for my whole life, a rabbi's child always looking for a sacred home to call my own.
Today I am rabbi of that very sacred home. I am your rabbi. And I am home.
I will work with all my heart, all my soul, and all my might to live up to the intimate and lofty dreams we share. We can make it happen. And we must.
I stand before you humbled, my precious community.
I am proud to be your rabbi.
I am humbled be your rabbi.
May we only grow and health and peace together. May the things we do here bring holiness and peace to the world. May we never stop dreaming.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Ave, Berkeley, CA