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July-August Newsletter

Below is my message from the July-August 2012 Newsletter.

This past week we began packing up our supplies at the church. After 16 years of calling the Brookville Reformed Church home we are moving on to the next stage in our journey together. The cantor and Kim packed up the Hebrew School supplies. I tended to the ritual items and the prayerbooks. As I packed up the prayerbooks I imagined those who sat in these pews and held them in their hands.

I thought of all those who turned the prayerbook’s pages marking the happy occasions in their lives. And I thought of those who stained them with their tears when they stood up from shiva and returned to their congregation. How many shouts of mazel tov were heard by these siddurim? How many anguished cries poured on to their words? I still believe what I have said many, many times. It is these prayers that have carried us from place to place.

Too often people confuse a congregation with a building. They think the synagogue is a matter of architecture. It is not. It is a matter of the people. And it is a matter of their songs and prayers.

And so on this day I carried once more. I packed up the prayerbooks and brought them to our new home. But even this new building will not define us. The ancient Levites were charged with caring for the tabernacle as the Israelites wandered through the desert. They also shlepped, moving the tabernacle from place to place. There is nothing demeaning or unholy with carrying our sacred books. More than anything else this carrying is what has defined us for generations. For generations we have carried siddurim from one home to another.

And now many people think that our shlepping will end. They confuse arriving at a destination with the conclusion of a journey. In truth this too is only a stage. The journey is always incomplete. That is the religious perspective. To appreciate Jewish history is to understand that we are always journeying and we will never arrive home. That is why throughout our long history of wandering our singular hope was to return to our first home, Jerusalem.

For centuries Jews observed the tradition that a corner of every home built outside of that city must remain incomplete. We must never become too comfortable in any other land. But the modern era has taught us that even though we have arrived home to Jerusalem it also remains incomplete. That dream is only partially fulfilled. And so we cling to the messianic longings of Yerushalayim shel maaleh, the heavenly Jerusalem. We forever hold in our prayers a vision of perfection. No earthly destination can ever be perfect. Not our beautiful homes. Not our ornate sanctuaries.

I am a Jew. I have no home. I have moved from city to city. And so only the prayers of my people have carried me on my journeys. They have been my sails. And they will continue to sustain me.

They will accompany our congregation in whatever building we might find ourselves in. Many will hold these prayerbooks in their hands and they will remember where they once stood and who once held them. They will be strengthened by their words.

I look forward to leading our praying within these new walls. I do not think, however, that the journey is complete. It is never complete.  We are forever journeying.  No matter where we might find ourselves we continue our travels—but always together and with these sacred books carried in our hands.