Our Congregation, Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, stands at a crucial point in a long, distinguished history. You are all acutely aware of the problems we face when our membership chooses to proceed with the creation of a “metropolitan synagogue” model. We have proceeded with the search for a new
Rabbi, one who will not only perform the traditional functions of spiritual leader and educator, but also provide solace and comfort for our losses of family and friends, joy, and celebration for baby namings and weddings, and all the other joys of Jewish life.
But in our current situation, we need more than that from our Rabbi. We need a person who has the skill, the experience, and the temperament to reach out to the community, not only in an effort to bring former members back to TOL*OLS,, but also to bring new members for whom a vibrant, inclusive, modern congregation would be an attractive addition to their secular life.We also need a Rabbi who would join in with other Rabbis and Jewish community leaders to revitalize the whole of the Pittsburgh Jewish Community. In this situation, a mixture of hope and uncertainty, our current membership, all of us, have an important part to play.
In this regard, our scripture provides us with a model we would do well to consider.The story of the Exodus from Egypt is told in the Torah from the point of view of the Divinity and the Leadership: let us look at that story from the point of view of the hundreds of thousands of Israelite slaves and their families. After hundreds of years of slavery, on very short notice, we are told to pack up our belongings—we’re leaving Egypt tonight so get ready quickly and wait for the signal. Next, after a hurried march with the Egyptian army in close pursuit, we are told we are crossing the Sea of Reeds, but not to worry, it will dry up just for us. After we cross and then watch the Egyptian army being wiped out, we sing and dance and rejoice. But, the next morning, guess what, there’s nothing to eat! We are provided with manna and water, but we are also attacked from the back by Amalek. After a serious loss of children and elderly Israelites, the enemy is defeated, but morale is low and the grumbling unabated.
Then comes the glorious big show at Sinai with the giving of the Ten Commandments: the people accept the Torah wholeheartedly,“All that Adonai has commanded we will do.” But what does that mean to us, how are we a part of all this, Moses is back on that mountain again, what now!The answer comes, unnoticed at first, when Adonai provides instructions for the construction and decoration of the Mishkan. This Tabernacleis to house the Ark and to allow the Divine Presence to dwell among the people. Bezalel is to be chief artisan to oversee this project.But all this is overshadowed by the absence of Moses, who returns to Sinai to receive two tablets.The people panic and demand a visible sign of assurance, which Aaron provides in the form of a golden calf for divine worship. Moses is outraged, smashes the tablets and destroys the idol; God punishes the perpetrators, but Moses intercedes and then makes another Sinai trip for two more tablets. What a mess.
And then comes the answer: Bezalel puts out a call for the construction project. The calls for artisans and precious materials, for helpers and errand boys, for clean up crews and traffic control, are answered with enthusiasm and that sense of belonging which comes when we work with others to accomplish something special and meaningful. In fact, the people’s response is so massive Bezalel has to put a stop to the donations of goods and services; there is just too much of everything. When all is finished the reward comes and God’s glory fills the Mishkan!
So, let’s get with it. As Woody Allen says, showing up is 80% of success. Answer the call. Come to the events. Participate in the discussions. Ask questions.Tell the congregation leaders what you want in a Rabbi and where you stand on issues of importance to you.Tell your friends and neighbors that Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha is hereto stay, better than ever. Like Israel of old, when all is finished, a new Rabbi in a vibrant, growing congregation,the reward willcome!