THE HIGH HOLY DAYS AT TEMPLE EMANU-EL

 

September 7, 2022 / 11 Elul 5782

In the classical movie ‘Grease,’ as the summer wanes, Danny Zuko abandons his summer persona and returns to his life as a rough, tough, juvenile greaser.

I wish that Danny was Jewish and had Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Perhaps this time of contemplation would have allowed him to realize that the summer moments actually reflected his true self and the gifts he had to share with others.

So just as Danny Zuko and Sandy’s magical summers came to a close, so too has ours, even though the stubborn heat is holding on. It is my hope that each of you had a meaningful summer.

• • •

There is a Chassidic story of a poor man named Reb Yitzhak, who was hardly eking out a living. One night he had a dream that right under a pillar of a bridge in the next town there was a buried treasure. He woke up early and set out to unearth it.

When he got to the bridge, he saw soldiers. He tried to sneak up, but every time he did the soldiers saw him and retreated. He so wanted the treasure that lay beneath that he kept trying. Finally, a soldier said, “what are you doing here? Go away!” 

The poor man felt desperate, and feeling he had no other choice, told the soldier about his dream, and offered to share the treasure if the soldier would let him dig it up. 

The solider laughed and said, “You believe in dreams like that? They’re all nonsense. Last night, I had a dream about finding a big treasure in the next village in the middle of a house of a man named Reb Yitzhak. NOW, DID I GO TO HIS HOUSE AND TRY TO DIG IT UP?!?!”

Upon hearing this, Reb Yitzhak ran home and dug in the middle of his home and sure enough there was a great treasure. 

What can this story teach us? 

So often, we look outside of ourselves for the answer to our problems. We look off into the distance when we should be looking for and recognizing the treasures that we already have. This applies to each of us as individuals, and to Temple Emanu-El.

What are the treasures that this community can offer?

The answer to that question depends on what each and every one of us is willing to invest in it. How can each of us reach out to someone else within our community and form a more meaningful relationship?

When the community faces a challenge or an opportunity for growth, do we see it as “our” challenge or opportunity, or is it “the Temple’s issue;” as if we are not a part of the collective?

Temple Emanu-El’s accomplishments are many, and potential also waits to be realized. Every person can bring their gifts to bear on our future success as a community. 

 

There is a wonderful song by Dan Nichols: 

We all got a life to live. We all got a gift to give.

Just open your heart and let it out.

We all got a peace to bring. 

We all got a song to sing.

Just open your heart and let it out.

When I reach out to you and you to me,

We become b’tzelem Elohim.

When we share our hopes and our dreams,

Each one of us, b’tzelem Elohim. 

(In the image of God)

We all got a tale to tell. 

We all want to speak it well.

Just open your heart and let it out.

We all got a mountain to climb. 

We all got a truth to find.

Just open your heart and let it out.

 

Temple Emanu-El has offered the gift of sacred relational community and because of this core value has had success. I already see the haimish soul of this community, and I am honored to serve as your rabbi. 

The upcoming High Holy Days give us an opportunity to lean in to this haimish-ness, and welcome new folks into the community, as well as reengaging those who have drifted.

As a community, we must do better at weaving every individual and every family into our communal tapestry. 

A great teacher once said, “Shabbat is poetry and the rest of the days are the prose of our lives.”

Let us continue to live our poetry and prose the best that we can, and let us share this living text with others.  Our community should walk with individuals and families, providing a sacred sanctuary in which and through which they can compose the prose of their lives and help us construct the next chapter of our congregational story. 

 

L’Shana Tova,

Rabbi Michael Shields