Since tonight’s dinner is ostensibly in honor of our arrival, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect both on our arrival, and this past year really. And we’ll do so in light of …. this week’s parsha!
We’re at the end of 40 years in the desert. Moshe knows at this point that he won’t be able to enter the land, and he asks God: “Hashem! Please appoint a new leader, who will work with the people.” I think it is instructive to see some of the ways the Torah, and the commentaries, understand this moment of transition.
Specifically, there are three moments in this weeks’ parsha that I think have significance both for our arrival, and my starting to work here at Beth Israel.
When Moses first asks God to appoint a new leader, he refers to God as:
“Elohai HaRUchot L’chol Basar” – God of all the living things.
That’s an odd title for God, why not the normal appellations of “Eloheem”, or the Y – H name of God.
The midrash, which Rashi in turn quotes, claims this title means as follows: “HaShem, you know that everyone, every person, has different ideas of how things should be done. Grant us a leader who knows who to deal with all the different kinds of people, and all of their different ideas.”
Now, I know that this is not true of our Jewish community, and our shul. Everyone here, we’re all on the same page, no disagreements, etc. But theoretically, there could be a community like this, so important that Moshe points it out.
What exactly is Moses’s worry? That if a new leader is not appointed,
Lo tihiyeh Adat Hashem katzon asher ayn lahem roeh.
This community of God shouldn’t be like sheep that have no shepherd.
In can be very difficult for a community not to have someone who’s formally in charge; particularly a shul community.
But Thank God, that was not the case this past year at Beth Israel. Many different people stepped up; in giving sermons, even if they hadn’t ever before; in volunteering to take care of Shabbat hosting, meals, planning, programming, the Holy Kitchen Krewe which continues every week to step up, and prepare food for our kiddushim.
So I want to first take this moment to acknowledge, and thank, every person in the Beth Israel community who has stepped up and served over this past year, and continues to do so. Thank you.
Lastly, God commands Moses, “vesamakhta et yadekha alav” – you will put your hands on him, and yet when the moment to do so comes, “the Torah recounts, “vayismoch Yadav alav” he places both hands upon him.
Whereas Joshua only needed one hand to be placed on him, Moshe places two.
I, as well, have felt blessed so far to have received from two hands. Firstly, I want to publicly thank Alex Barkoff. Over the course of the last year, and especially since we’ve arrive, he’s been so attentive to our needs, settling us in the house, and making us feel welcomed. So thank you Alex!
And the second hand, is that of Rabbi David. David stepped up huge this past year, and was asked to take on a whole variety of duties and responsibilities. And he performed very admirably. So David, I know I speak on behalf of the whole congregation in saying “Thank you.”
And thank you all for being here tonight. If I haven’t had the opportunity yet, I hope to use the next weeks and months to have the opportunity to connect to every member of the community, either in my office, our going out for a coffee or a beer. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, I’m looking forward to getting to know you better.
I am eager and excited to begin the process of helping this community flourish and grow.
Thank you, Enjoy and Shabbat shalom.