Sunday, June 6, 2010

My Thanks

My Thanks
The following is an excerpt from my speech at Thursday evening's fundraiser in my honor. For the complete text follow the link.

Thank you for this evening and for this honor. I am grateful to all for attending. It warms my heart to celebrate together. I consider it a gift to serve as a rabbi and in particular as your rabbi. Thank you for that privilege. Thank you for recognizing all we have done over the past 10 years with this party. It is so wonderful to celebrate together and dance together!...

Parties and simchas are of course the quintessential Jewish occasions. They remind us of what I most fond of teaching and it is the following. Judaism says, you can’t dance by yourself. You must dance with others. It is not because you look stupid doing so. One need only watch a certain rabbi’s YouTube videos to find an illustration of this. Now my kids will say, “Abba, it is not that you can’t dance by yourself. It is, you can’t dance.” That may be true, but it is not the most important point. You need your community to dance. You also need your congregation to cry. We just don’t do stuff by ourselves. Judaism is not the religion of the rugged individual. We are at our best when we are with others. Our faith is not about solitude. We achieve greatness not on our own, but with friends and in the arms of community. That is what I am about. That is what this synagogue is about.

People often ask me, “When will you have your synagogue?” This question confuses the meaning and purpose of a synagogue with a building. We rightfully want and need a building not because we require a monument but because we can’t do all we want or need without our own home. But square footage does not make a synagogue just like it does not make a house into a home. In towns that too often measure people by the size and architecture of their houses our gathering here tonight reminds them and ourselves that meaning is found in the community we have already built, the people sitting around this room.

We will build a building (and I won’t quit on this point) not because it is an end but because it is a means to further our vision of a caring and learning community. Let us be clear. Meaning and purpose are found in friends and community. This meaning we have already built. This purpose we have already achieved. Our community will only grow stronger in the years ahead, furthered by a building, sustained by the devotion of leaders and ensured by the participation of all. Our friendships will only grow deeper. And so I thank you for your friendship. Thank you for the privilege of serving this community.

I pray. May we never lose sight of the fact that square footage only tabulates area. It can never calculate meaning. On this occasion we have affirmed that no building can ever contain the meaning and purpose we have already grasped. Most people spend a lifetime pining after the friendships and sense of community we already hold. I thank God for this congregation and for its members. I thank you for calling me rabbi. May we continue to go from strength to strength. Chazak, chazak v’nitchazeik.

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