Temple Shalom Newsletter – March 2017 – Rabbi Bill S. Tepper
Whenever Deborah, Max and I have invited others to join us for a meal and social gathering, I have always found myself hovering by the front door or peering out the window in anticipation of the moment our guests arrive. Even now, living in a high-rise apartment, I am quick to open our front door and wait in the hall to greet our guests as they emerge from the elevator.
I’m no Abraham of the Torah’s book of Genesis; but just as our revered ancestor enthusiastically welcomed three unnamed messengers from God – who had journeyed to inform him and Sarah of the impending birth of their son – I too am joyful whenever the opportunity presents itself to welcome family, friends or newcomers into my home.
At Temple Shalom we take pride in the gift and skill with which we welcome long-time members and first-timers into our sacred confines. We take pleasure in breaking bread and worshiping together. We experience satisfaction in coming to know one another better each time we meet. It’s who we are as custodians and stakeholders of our exceptional Jewish house of study, prayer and socialization.
But at the same time, we cannot take the fervour with which we welcome others for granted. The last words any Temple member, lay leader or rabbi wishes to hear from a visitor are ‘no one spoke to me all evening.’ That being said, we cannot allow our passion to lapse, nor can we become complacent. The spirit of embracing must never diminish. The welcome mat over which we warmly usher others into Temple Shalom – and by extension, into our hearts – must remain in pristine condition, irrespective of how many persons tread across it. It must always be an object of pride.
And we must be sensitive to the larger picture: those visiting Temple Shalom for the first time – or the first time in a long while – may be apprehensive. In choosing to join with us, they do not want to feel they are strangers. All the more reason for us to share the best of ourselves. Kindness, gratitude and generosity: these are the qualities with which we imbue the spirit of welcoming.
We want people to return to the Temple, and to know they have friends and a spiritual home here. We want people to become involved, and to stay involved. We want them to enjoy being with us for meals, worship services, learning programs and cultural activities. And we want them to bring others along, especially their children, who in the best of all possible worlds will become honoured learners at our Irma Penn School of Jewish Learning.
It’s OK to be shy. It’s alright to be nervous when reaching out to others for the first time. But when we can go that extra mile and maintain the immaculate condition of our welcome mats, there are plenty of blessings to go around.
Rabbi Bill Tepper was live with Nadai Kidwai of CBC Radio Winnipeg. Enjoy the story of our “Flying Rabbi”…
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