Typically, my Thursday eblast is an attempt to provide some pre-Shabbat inspiration to members of our synagogue family. Instead, for this eblast, I want to talk about three ways our Etz Chaim family has inspired me going into Shabbat this week:
#1: After a broader appeal to our community, with the holiday season officially concluded, I can tell you that we filled all ten bins with canned goods for hungry families in Atlanta. We have two additional bins that usually sit empty by the coat closets during the year; it won’t surprise you to find out that these are now also near-full. A reconstructionist colleague once told me that he recites the final lines of Birkat HaMazon beginning with the line “Naar Hayiti…” (meaning “I have been young and old and never seen a righteous person seek after their daily bread”) in a hush tone. Why? Because he felt that this is not a reality of the world in which we live. This year, I am inspired to instead say it in “an extra loud voice” thanks to all of your sincere efforts in bringing this to fruition.
#2: Sukkah Fest was a smashing success that brought new life to our festival observance. The mishna of Masechet Sukkot speaks about Simchat Beit HaShoeyva, a festival that took place during Sukkot, in which our rabbis declare “there were no more joyous days among the people of Israel.” As I watched hundreds of people--not to mention countless young children--enjoying two wonderful musical performances, eating kosher BBQ in the sukkah next to a petting zoo, and relishing in the joy of the holiday, I couldn’t help but feel like we were channeling a part of that ancient festival into Georgia. Needless to say, our first annual Sukkah Fest will be followed by a second. My deep thanks continue to go to the Fineman family for making this joyous celebration possible, as well as to Heather Blake for helping to coordinate the details of the festival.
#3: When a nearly full-sanctuary showed up to Simchat Torah on a weekday morning to honor Steve and Donna Krodman, it reminded me just how very fortunate I am to be at the helm of such a wonderful, supportive, Etz Chaim family. Many tears were spilled to conclude the holiday season. Steve and Donna remain remarkable exemplars who remind us continually that what we get out of community is nearly always a measure of what we put into it. They personally inspire me as a rabbi to want to do “even more” for our community, and I hope that you are similarly moved to do the same.
Etz Chaim: thank you for inspiring holiday season. Now, we go full speed ahead into Bereshit.