Shalom to all the members and friends of our Temple,
I don't think there's any question in anyone's mind that this has been a pretty bizarre couple of months. By now, most of us know the ins and outs of the coronavirus. We may still be in a little shock. While we may have heard of Ebola and certainly smallpox, most of us had never even heard the word coronavirus. It's hard to believe that the normal lives that we were living could be disrupted so totally so suddenly.
Before the coronavirus spread, some of us spent most of our time at home anyway --- but that was by choice. Now we all have to be careful where we go and take great efforts to stay away from other people. In many ways it's the exact antithesis of Judaism. When I was young, I read a book by Mark Zboroski called Life is with People which was an anthropological study of the shtetl with an introduction by none other than Margaret Mead.
The title always struck me. Life is with people. In the book, that was a description of reality. Unfortunately, today, the same words are a hope and a prayer.
Our Judaism requires us to pray in a minyan, a group of ten.
In Jewish mystical teachings it is taught that when one prays in a group, the prayers are carried by the Angels to the throne where God sits. The carrying of our prayers then is effortless because the collective fervor of the group carries the prayers up to the heavens almost by itself. It is a very easy job for the Angels to accompany our collective prayer. But when a people pray by themselves, they have to have perfect intent and absolute focus to achieve the same result. It's not just 10 times harder but a hundred times or a thousand times or ten thousand times.
We miss going to Temple to pray, to learn and to study. But we are doing these things quite well on Zoom for those who have participated know. I hope that if you have not yet registered on Zoom to participate in our online community, that you will do so soon because there's a new world coming, and Zoom or something like it is going to be part of that world. Even once we get back to normal, I'm sure we're still going to do a lot of things on Zoom and other platforms that may have not been even invented yet. But we especially miss going to Temple because that is where are friends and family are. community. We at TBS are a community consisting of many unique individuals and that is something very very special. How we are willing and able to interact with each other makes us who we are.
In the short time that I have been with TBS I have developed many special memories. I only arrived at Temple Beth Shalom for the first time for my interview in January 2019 and I remember Jane and Marvin Berris picking me up at the airport at 3 p.m. and how we got stuck in traffic for hours trying to get to the Temple. It was a wonderful four days of interviewing and meeting the congregation. I was so excited when I accepted the appointment as Rabbi and I came back for good on June 11th. Andre Ivory picked me and Skinny up at the airport and took us for our first meal as full-time Arizona residents where we sat outside of Pita Jungle in Glendale in the 114 degree temperature.
Even that was a lot of fun. In a short time thereafter, due to the special people here at TBS, I have been welcomed and feel a part of this Temple family.
I think that our experience with the coronavirus quarantine has strengthened our resolve to be a caring community. We know each other and we care about each other and we want to continue to build something very special and very spiritual together. Perhaps because we're a little bit far from the geographic center of the Jewish community of Phoenix we feel a sense of mission and self-reliance that has only magnified through our experiences recently and our need to take care of each other while we are in sequestration.
What has particularly struck me is that the mission of Temple Beth Shalom is not about the need to be a perfect congregation and doing things perfectly, but in acknowledging the need to put forth a good faith effort and to try. . In The book of Leviticus that we have been reading, we learned that Aaron could not believe the God was still going to appoint him as high priest even after he allowed the children of Israel to build the golden calf. While there may have been extenuating circumstances, Aaron was still culpable and responsible. But Moses reassured him that wasn't that Aaron had been perfect or even good, but it was because he was willing to acknowledge his errors and felt sincere remorse and was determined to do better.
We have a wonderfully warm and loving group and we have a great future ahead of us. This is not an easy time for any of us and we want to be there for each other, if only over the phone. Please don't hesitate to call me anytime you want on my cell number. Certainly, call anyone in the congregation that you know and let them know that you can provide some support for them emotionally if not providing entertainment. We are committed to the Torah of Moses and the covenant between God and the children of Israel and we take that responsibility seriously. But at this time with all the stress we are under, it is a time to try to still have fun and socialize if only virtually with each other as much as we can.
At the present time, I hope to see you online for our services and events. I especially will be looking forward to seeing everyone in person hopefully very very soon.