Homes Away From Home
Temple Shalom Newsletter
September 2016 / Av-Elul 5776
Rabbi Bill S. Tepper
Beyond the brick-and-mortar homes in which we live, and where in the best of possible worlds we experience measures of comfort, reassurance and peace, there are few other places where we Jews find ourselves more at home then in our houses of worship, learning and assembly. There are few other institutions where we are instantly embraced by the spirit of welcoming and within which we re-connect with and affirm our precious Jewish traditions, rituals, stories and sacred occasions. For the Jewish people, the Temple, Synagogue and Shul have been and shall always be homes-away-from-home.
For we who are proud Reform Jews it is at the Temple where through an array of social programming we encounter friends both new and newer. It is where by way of classes, workshops and special speakers we enhance our knowledge of Judaism. It is where upon attending and participating in High Holy Days and other moedim – the appointed times that grace our beautiful Jewish calendar – that we acknowledge the Jewish sense of time. And in being present for life cycle moments both festive and sad, it is where we honor those with whom we share our Jewish community. Truly, it is within the holy confines of the Temple that our Jewish view of the world is nurtured and strengthened.
As I write these words I have yet to undertake my first visit to Temple Shalom. But I already know that I shall be part of a special community, a community blessed with wonderful music and song, inspiring services, dedicated leadership, dynamic learning for persons of all age groups, bridge, coffee houses, guest lecturers, community health programs… the list goes on! Clearly, Temple Shalom cherishes its Judaism, and cherishes each individual member. It is a community that greets all who enter its doors with open arms and hearts. It is a community that understands the premium we Jews place upon Talmud Torah – lifelong Jewish learning. It is a community imbued with the spirit of hesed – kindness – and the guiding force of tikkun olam – the balm we apply towards the healing of our perpetually-wounded world.
As a congregational rabbi it is my blessing to have established warm friendships with the members of my Temple and the larger Jewish and non-Jewish communities as well: to be of service in their instances of both joy and grief, to have consoled them as they struggled with illness and/or injury; to share the remarkable intellectual, emotional and spiritual transformation that flows from Jewish learning, to have been welcomed into their homes to enjoy conversation [and many a good meal, too] and to have been a resource/guide during the pivotal moments when Jews raise aloft the banner of tzedek – justice. Such are the communities I have been privileged to care for, knowing that my family and I are cared for in return.
In the Midrash we read:
I sleep, nevertheless my heart is awake [Song of Songs 5:2]. The people of Israel said to God: “Eternal of the Universe, I am asleep for lack of the Temple [in Jerusalem], yet my heart is awake in the houses of prayer and study.” [Song of Songs Rabbah 5:2, Sec. 1]
In fullness of heart, I look forward to being with everyone this year at Temple Shalom.