June 27, 2014
Temple B’nai Chaim
Rabbi David A. Lipper
Remember Yentl? It’s the story of a brilliant young woman with a golden voice and a fiery commitment to master the male dominated world of Talmud and Torah. She meets a brilliant and dashingly handsome young scholar and despite the barriers which their world places between them they become partners and friends along life’s often twisted way.
There is a scene, just a brief moment in the scheme of the many larger themes within the film. Yentl’s father, who is her teacher and her only real friend, dies very early in the story. Having spent her life in secret study, she disguises herself as a young boy and enrolls in a great Yeshiva to test her skill and to taste the Torah from the words of one of its greatest masters. After a long and challenging examination by the Rabbi she emerges from his office into the great hall of study.
The Rabbi congratulates her on the wisdom she has gained from her father’s teaching and sets about searching for a worthy partner to match her strength. She has done it, and the secret world she has so longed for is finally about to unfold before her eyes.
The voices fade into the background as Yentl gazes about the room. She drinks in the light as it streams down through open skylights upon teeming young scholars as they pore over dusty volumes of Jewish law and lore. She day dreams of the years of preparation which have brought her to this day. She shivers from the fear and the excitement of this magnificent moment. And then she sings these words:
“There are moments you remember all your life, there are moments you wait for and dream of all your life, this is one of those moments.”
She is, at that moment, exquisitely aware that these brief ticks on the clock of her life will mark a turning point which will change her and her world forever. And she opens her eyes to the tiniest details of that moment in time, so that she might carry them with her always along whatever road which life might have in store for her for all the moments, days, weeks and years to come. Life is a collection of these moments strewn together by the simple, but necessary labors that bring such moments to life.
My Friends, you all know by now that this is our last Shabbat together. When I left my last full time pulpit in 2009, I said that I was casting my fate upon the winds and would see where it took me. I opened my eyes and behold, I found myself in your midst. Something unique and special drew us together. The journey that we have been on this year has been truly enlightening. You reminded me what was so special about a small congregation where every member has ownership. The idea that a small and disparate group of people would gather together and create a sacred community like Temple B’nai Chaim was very powerful. Maybe the fates drew me here because of that … we all need faith checks every now and then.
This past year has been magical. I have a whole new group of people whom I can call friends. I have seen your passion and your creativity shine. I have heard your faith stories and your challenges and I have witnessed the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. We have had passionate debates over important issues and we have opened each other’s eyes to new understandings and interpretations. Even my brief encounter here has been life altering.
But as winds blow and swirl, my fate is now taking me to Bellevue, WA. There is a congregation in crisis and the skills that I can bring to help them are needed.
But, regardless of that, a part of my heart and rabbinic soul will remain here with you. I think that Temple B’nai Chaim rocks! And I am so happy to leave you in the great hands of an awesome Rabbi, Rachel Bearman. You are blessed to have someone of her caliber here to lead you into the next stage of your congregational journey.
So I want to leave you with one final message:
The Great Jewish Philosopher Martin Buber once said, Speaking of faith was like going to a restaurant, reading the menu, and then leaving before the meal is served. No matter how good the description, it bears scant resemblance to the meal. Living your Judaism is a feast for the soul and in doing so you make menus obsolete.
Live your Jewish lives … feed your soul from the trough of 4000 years of history …. Slake your thirst from the rivers of faith that wind through the world. These are the moments that no one can take away, no wave can wash away, no fire can burn away, no time can wear away. This heritage of Jewish living, faith and commitment is the most lasting legacy which we can give to our children and their children.
Back to Yentl. “These are the moments you remember all your life, the moments you wait for and dream of all your life, this is one of those moments.”