Jul 20, 2008

A Note from Rabbi Creditor: "Continuous Creation" in honor of David Stein and Aliza Segal

A Note from Rabbi Creditor:
"Continuous Creation"
in honor of David Stein and Aliza Segal

  15 Tammuz 5768
July 18, 2008

While tradition teaches that "kol hatchalot kashot/all beginnings are hard" there are times when beginnings are moments of palpable love.

One year ago, when we arrived in Berkeley with almost 3 children and many dreams, we took a step forward into the unknown.  Netivot Shalom, a place of deep Torah and caring, was a new and mysterious community.  I remember that very first day in my office, that very first Shabbat, those first friendships.
  Two of those first friends, two beloved members of our community, are making new beginnings in the coming weeks.  I'm humbled to return the care with which they welcomed my family as they prepare for their next steps by sharing these words.

The Torah's first story recounts the difficulties involved in creation.  Mystery and challenges in the narrative speak to and about people who are at the junction of faith and history, of science and future promise. The Hebrew text is so pregnant with meaning that it can fill whole libraries dedicated to Midrashic thought and interpretation.  But there is one clear direction of creation, in which God takes the waters that were a primordial void, divides and stops them up in the Heavens above ("shamayim", the Hebrew word for the Heavens, is actually two words "sham mayim: there is water") and the sea below.

One would think that this divine effort would last.  But it doesn't.  The very next Torah portion, the story of Noach, includes an undoing of creation.  God "takes out the stoppers" for the waters above and releases the fountains below, erasing the creative event.  Only through an ongoing creation, sustained in every subsequent story, can history flow and gain strength.  Creation undone is rupture, and only a temporary accomplishment - even for God.

It is in light of this thought that I turn to the grand work of David Stein and Aliza Segal.  It is because of their generous spirits and profound commitments to our community that we are where we are.  This shul community is growing in strength, numbers, and intimacy.  We understand more about systems and communication.  We have a better understanding of the responsibilities each role in our shul demands.  They have empowered our community to continue the process of creation they tended so well.

Aliza greeted my family the very day we arrived for the interview Shabbat.  With her she brought abundant food and overflowing grace.  She helped us know the soul of Netivot Shalom by sharing her own with us.  And then, when we were blessed to move here, she and her family moved just 4 doors down from our home.  We had a little "kibbutz" of a block with children visiting all the time, parents sharing Shabbat and the park.  But when I began my work as rabbi of Netivot Shalom, it was Aliza's mind and skill that inspired me the most.  She brought real care and mindfulness to our office, to our shul.  And with the blessing of Tova Nechama in their lives, she and Yehoshua's decision to take their next step as a family is, while natural, a loss to us all - to me.  I'm proud to be Aliza's friend.  We'll miss the Segals very much, and are proud to always be their home.

David Stein.  All I can do is start by saying his name and smiling.  My first moment with David was informative - we spoke for just a few moments in which he made clear to me his passion and skills, and his
commitment to continue as executive director for one year of the next rabbi's tenure, a promise of continuity and stability.  No gift could have meant more to me personally, professionally, and to our community as a thriving, dynamic entity.  And I have loved David since meeting him.  He is my friend and my teacher.  When he and Bill moved to Berkeley, in order to be close to our shul, I was inspired.  When we sat to plan the transition to a new executive director, I was overwhelmed.  David has worked harder than we could have asked.  He has cared more than we will ever know.  And we are blessed that he and Bill are - and will always be - members of the Netivot Shalom community.  Because of David's gifts, we are ready to continue creating.

Every transition is an opportunity to realize the blessings we already share, and to envision the blessings to come.  Aliza and David were honored by our shul community last Shabbat in a Friday night celebration.  Today, "Sabbah Daveed" was the guest of honor at the Preschool "pretend Shabbat."

May Aliza and her family feel our love and our gratitude every step of their ways.

May David and Bill enjoy their new "civilian" roles in our community.

May they and we always feel this kind of love and gratitude, experiencing the ongoing creation of
healthy, holy community.

Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Ave, Berkeley, CA

Chag Sukkot Sameach, dear friends.