Rabbi’s Report

AGM 2024 – 10 February 2024

In our Torah reading cycle, we are shifting from telling the narrative story of our people into the legal sections of Torah that will carry us through the coming months. The story that we’ve told so far is one we know well: our people were slaves in Egypt, until we were freed with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, to serve God, to receive Torah, to eventually settle in our own land, the Land of Israel. With this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, literally – laws, we shift into exactly that – laws that provide structure for our ancient Israelite ancestors to build a society from scratch. A society, unlike Egypt’s, where strangers shall not be wronged or oppressed – because we know all too well what that feels like. The society that Torah outlines for us is not a utopian society where everything is perfect all the time – these laws know that they are dealing with real humans, who make mistakes, hurt each other, damage property, even kill each other. These laws begin to provide the blueprint for what we do when we mess up, when we hurt each other, in body or in soul. They remind us, over and over again, that we are obligated to each other, that our destinies are bound up together. That this is what being in community is about – knowing that inevitably, someone will have a disagreement, someone may hurt someone else, but the real work of community building is in the repair that we do after the hurt, not in the prevention of the damage.

I’ve been blessed to be part of this holy community for just over a month now – and I’ve witnessed each of your commitment to building a stronger community, to the process of repair when someone has been hurt, to thoughtfully creating space for a diversity of opinions, Jewish practices, and beliefs. It’s an honour to be your rabbi, to be with you in moments of illness, in joy (as when we welcome a new baby into the Jewish community later this morning), and struggle. I’m grateful for the partnership of the board, of their support in thinking through the best ways that a part time, one-third time rabbi can serve the needs of this community, in ways that are sustainable and enable Temple Shalom to grow and connect more deeply to Judaism and Jewish tradition.

As we look ahead to the coming year, I have two invitations for you:

  • I am not (yet) a mind reader – if you or someone you love are sick, dealing with a mental health crisis, a new diagnosis, a family challenge, or need a listening rabbinic ear, please don’t hesitate to reach out – I want to be with you in the hard times as well as the joyful times.
  • Come! As you’ll hear from this morning’s reports, the board and I are hard at work planning services, programs, and learning opportunities for community members of all ages throughout the year. Whether it’s our monthly rabbi weekends, including sticking around for Torah study after oneg (starting today!), lay led services on other weeks, holiday celebrations, and learning opportunities, both in person and on Zoom – please join me to study the book of Esther in preparation for Purim on Zoom. Be a part of this community – for we are all stronger when you are here.
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