Rabbi’s Message Jan/Feb 2019

Year of Miracles
Rabbi Bill S. Tepper

Recently, my family and I watched the film Sully starring Tom Hanks, and centering on the extraordinary emergency landing of a U.S. Airways plane on the Hudson River of New York City in 2009. The film revived my own memories of the event, and recalled the accompanying wonder and awe experienced throughout the world at how all 155 passengers and crew survived. Reinforcing the miraculous nature of the occurrence, editorial cartoonist Rex Babin of The Sacramento Bee newspaper created the inspiring image of two enormous hands reaching down from the sky and gently supporting the plane’s wings as passengers and crew emerge and make their way to safety.

Miracles do happen: persons who survive terrible cycling, auto, train, airline and recreational accidents; who emerge healed from life-threatening illnesses; and who are rescued from what is otherwise certain death at the hands of those intent on doing them harm. We have all seen such miracles unfold. They are never beyond the realm of possibility.

Writing these words, I am also preparing for Shabbat Shemot – the opening of the Torah’s Book of Exodus. Here is our very own Jewish story about miracles: the miraculous departure of our ancestors from centuries of oppressive servitude in Egypt, and the miraculous beginning of our peoplehood – not long after – with God, Moses and the Torah at Mount Sinai. These are our seminal Jewish moments; they define who we are. From a Jewish standpoint, the Exodus narrative is arguably the most miraculous of all time.

And the miracle – as it pertains to us, the Jewish people – continues. It continues whenever we assemble to observe and celebrate a holiday and festival, whenever we are present for a lifecycle event, whenever we partake in Jewish learning, whenever we attend a social event, and whenever we act in support of our youth, and whenever we fulfill an act of tzedakah. The foregoing require no over and above acts of strength or heroism, no special skills or gifts, nor any measure of material wealth. All they require is dedication to Judaism and community, love and caring for others, and an unshakeable belief in miracles.

As we journey into the year 2019 let us – the Temple Shalom community – endeavour to sustain the miracle of Jewish living: attend our musical, spiritually uplifting and dynamic Kabbalat/Erev Shabbat services; sample our intellectually and emotionally intriguing Shabbat morning Torah Study sessions. Be present for a relaxing Saturday evening learning and social program – and stay for havdalah! Offer your time and resources to the Temple’s caring community – responding to the needs of those who are homebound, hospitalized or who will be simply thankful for your comforting presence. Accompany your children to our special Junior Congregation Shabbat services, and ensure that they are enrolled in our enriching Irma Penn School of Jewish Learning. And encourage our adolescent members to partake in our fulfilling array of Temple Youth Group activities.

The story of Temple Shalom – and of K’lal Yisrael, the Jewish people in their entirety – is ongoing. It is ours to write, and ours to celebrate. It is a story of love and devotion; a story of resilience and survival; and as what will no doubt unfold in 2019 and beyond – a story about miracles.