D’var Torah for Our Congregational Meeting, 5/28/2015

As I prepared to offer a d’var Torah tonight, I was struck by the fact that the first congregational event that I attended at TBC, well the first one that didn’t involve anyone voting on whether or not I should be hired, was last spring’s congregational meeting. It’s hard to believe it was only a year ago when my relationship with this community began. It’s been a year filled with unexpected experiences, opportunities to learn and grow, and special, moving moments, and before I go any further, I want to thank you for your support, your enthusiasm, and your commitment to our community, our synagogue, and to helping me find my place in both.

When I studied this week’s Torah portion, Naso, I was struck by the way that its structure resembles the life of this and all congregations. The portion moves from a census, to a ritual that invokes God’s presences in the tabernacle, to an explanation of individual responsibilities, and then finally to what my rabbis have always called, “the best blessing our people knows,” the priestly blessing, one of the most special prayers in our tradition. It is a portion made up of both amazingly ordinary and profoundly sacred moments, and because of this, it is the perfect portion to talk about atthis meeting because it is a perfect representation of the life of a congregation.

For the Israelites and for our community, membership is both a reward and a responsibility- bringing with it the promise of many sacred and ordinary moments. This Torah portion reminds us that both kinds of experiences are inherently valuable. Without one, the other loses its power. If every moment in the Torah is a “Sinai moment,” we would eventually forget why we ever cared that Moses climbed up the mountain in the first place. And, if every service at TBC was Kol Nidre, then we would lose the ability to appreciate both the perfect simplicity of a Friday night service in the courtyard as well as the transcendent majesty of a bimah filled with our past presidents holding our Torahs in their arms.

Our individual lives, the lives of our families, and the life of this congregation are ideally balanced, successful, and rewarding when we appreciate and invest in all aspects of our experiences. We’ve spent this year thinking of this congregation as our home, and as we move forward, we need to continue working to fill this space with the beautiful, diverse, and complex moments of our lives. We need to learn from our Torah portion and value the ordinary as well as the extraordinary. We need to be inspired by this section of the book of Numbers and put our time, resources, and enthusiasm toward filling our congregation with life and toward filling our lives with our congregation. Thank you for all that you have done to help us reach this goal, and thank you for all that you will do in the future as we continue on our journey as a passionate, engaged, and inspired community.

Rabbi Rachel Bearman
Temple B’nai Chaim