Feb 28, 2017

Joyfully Answering the Call

From Rabbi Creditor: 
Joyfully Answering the Call
February 28, 2017 
Rosh Chodesh Adar, 5777

Dear Friends,  

It is a Jewish tradition, on the first day of the month of Adar (today), to increase joy. (Mishnah Ta'anit)

Importantly, that is not the same as saying one is naturally happier on a specific day on the calendar. Moods seldom follow instructions, and time has a funny way of surprising even the expected. But a mindful dose of recommended joy sounds great to me!

I'd like to share with you a story, a real experience that occurred today at shul. A young man came to sit with me. I didn't know him. He had left a message on the shul's voicemail about feeling despondent about the current situation in America, and wanted to sit with a rabbi. When we sat together just today I learned that he was a punk rock musician, and an anarchist living in Berkeley. More than that, deeper than that, he shared with me that he was deeply afraid, not only about threats to free speech, health care, the LGBTQ community, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, and others (each of which he named). 

What scared him? He was afraid of his own response to a proposed Nazi march in Berkeley. He was afraid of his own rage and fear and hopelessness, not sure where to turn. So he looked for a synagogue, a safe place. He looked for a rabbi, someone to sit with and trust. It's not that there were any "fixes" for the things that worried him. But, when we had spoken for a while, he looked at me and said something we all should hear and take to heart: 

Thank you for being here. I'm so grateful this synagogue is here     
   and open. I haven't been to shul for many years. I feel a little less 
   afraid now."

Friends, I'm sharing this with you because the thought that there is an "out there" and an "in here" when it comes to the work of a shul is a misperception. No, we can't care for everyone everywhere. Yes, we are struggling with a staff shortage and are gearing up for the deeply-needed and much-anticipated upgrade to our Youth Community. Yes, the board is working incredibly hard to strengthen every aspect of our work as a community. Yes, all of this is blessing, pure and profound.

Yes: it is important that we see the work we do "inside" the shul as being in service with the world "out there." How can we be communal healers if we don't visit each other when we are ill? How can we effectively pursue a just society if we don't build the strength of our shul? Where would that young man have turned if we hadn't built a shul on University Ave?

There is much to do. Again, Jewish wisdom helps: Ours is not to complete the work. Our is to start. (Pirkei Avot) 

We should celebrate what we've built here, the holy community known to the world as Netivot Shalom. And we should see the strength we continue to build as a shul in service of this fragile world we share. That kind of purpose is what some might even name "a calling." How blessed we are to answer that call.

rabbi creditor

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