Dear Temple Beth Or,
Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam, shehecheyanu, v’kiy’manu, v’higianu laz’man hazeh, Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this moment. This is the traditional Jewish blessing we recite to elevate the significance of first moments, and new beginnings. This is such a moment in many different ways…This is my first pulpit as rabbi, this is my first interaction with Temple Beth Or, this is your new chapter without your beloved Rabbi Mark Kram, and it is the start of what I know will be an exciting, energetic, and meaningful journey together.
I feel so blessed that we have found each other… it is beshert! To think that I have lived with my husband and our 3 children for the past 30 years less than 2 miles from Temple Beth Or without ever having visited and that I am now your rabbi, is quite amazing! It is a colliding of 2 worlds. I cannot tell you how excited and truly honored I am.
Although I would characterize myself as a glass-half-full kind of person, I do not think for one minute that this transition will be without its challenges. There is a saying in hebrew, Kol ha’chatchalot kashot, all beginnings are difficult. Beginnings move us from our comfort zone, even when that zone is less than positive and even when we think we are ready for change; and beginnings tend to shake us from our complacency. Times like this require courage, faith and a willingness to experiment with change for the sake of our own awakening and a deepening of our own psycho-spiritual connections.
Painted across the bima in our sanctuary is a message that reads, “Make the old new, and the new holy.” How poignant of a message for us to embrace as we learn how to transition into this new chapter together. The “old” refers not just to the wisdom, rituals and traditions of our ancient religion that have been passed down from generation to generation, but also to the particular 35-year history of this sacred congregation. We will take a step back to gain a perspective on what is working and what is not working, to explore ways we can honor the past and yet still move forward to an ever more enriching future, and to focus our attention on breathing new light and life into this, Beth Or, this House of Light.
I come to you with a full heart and great passion for building a dynamic and thoughtful Jewish community. I want to build on the gifts that each of you possess in making this a makom kadosh, a sacred place. I personally need a spiritual home which provides me with a sense of comfort and peace to deal with life’s challenges, which helps me to find greater meaning in my life’s purpose, which lifts up my soul and makes it soar, which challenges me intellectually to understand the deeper meaning of our ancient wisdom, and which inspires me to give of myself to heal the brokenness of the world around me. I know I have found a community of people who are searching for similar connections and meaning, and I pray that we can continue to build toward this over the coming years. It is a challenging task for which I am ready, but I cannot do it alone. If you are on board, it will take each of you to invest in what we can build together, not just with your financial resources but with all of your talents, energy and creativity. God commanded the Israelites, V’asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham, build for me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them. As was requested over 3000 years ago, we, too, need to see the gifts we can contribute to the building of a spiritual community worthy of the presence of the Divine. We need to set our intention towards the goal of welcoming everyone to join in that spiritual mission, without regard to their religious background, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or political affiliation! We need to exhibit “audacious hospitality,” not only for our current members but to anyone who wants to participate. If we want to project such hospitality, and I believe we do, we need to take a close look at our physical spaces, our communications, our language and our actions to insure that they all reflect the welcoming community we want to be.
I look forward to meeting each of you and listening to your thoughts, your dreams and your suggestions, as we transition to a new chapter in Temple Beth Or’s proud history. It is my honor and privilege to serve as your rabbi. And, as we share in the celebrations, challenges and losses of our life’s journeys, I will strive to be fully present for you and to offer you my spiritual comfort, guidance and compassion.
When we finish reading each Book of our Torah, we say “Chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek, be strong, be strong and let us be strengthened by each other.” Kein y’hi ratzon, may it be God’s will, that all of our efforts lead us to this end.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for this incredible opportunity.
Rabbi Robyn Fisher