Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I don’t need you anymore!

I don’t need you anymore!
at Touro Synagogue March 18, 2017

A few years ago, I stumbled on a help wanted ad, “Wanted, rabbi, expert in layning and leading, friendly, team player, likes island living.”  I always wondered what shul posted that ad.

In his words of Torah, Rabbi Marc Mandel opined about a congregational rabbi’s role,

“This Sunday, in New York City, Yeshiva University will be hosting its Chag HaSemikhah, which is a triennial graduation, celebrating the new rabbis ordained from 2015-2017: In this week’s Parsha, Parashat Ki Tisa, the challenges that a rabbi can face emerge and there are many insights about Rabbinic leadership.

“In a bizarre series of events, while Moshe is receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, his brother Aharon is somehow pressured into building the Golden Calf. God tells Moshe, ‘Go back down לֶךְ־רֵ֕ד, I don't need you anymore.’ God says to Moshe, ‘Your purpose as a rabbi was to be the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, but, now that they are worshiping a golden calf, what do I need you for? Go back down לֶךְ־רֵ֕ד, you’re fired!’

“What is the job of a rabbi in our modern times? Do rabbis have any influence over their communities? Or are they like Moshe and Aaron-who were helpless and couldn't prevent the people from fulfilling their desires and wishes to live their own lives?

“There are many challenges facing Jewish communities today. Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center indicate that the number of Jews who participate in Jewish community life is decreasing, and there are many questions about the Jewish future.

“What can a rabbi do to counter these powerful forces that are threatening the future of the Jewish people? Can rabbis prevent our communities from assimilating, or are we just like Moses and Aaron, participating in the building of modern idols that the people prefer? 

“The Parsha teaches us that Moses did not give up. True, he does smash the Ten Commandments. But he also got the Levites together, and they pledge their dedication  and commitment to follow the laws of the Torah. There was a plan for the future and Moshe went back up to Mt. Sinai and prepared for the next set of commandments.

“The broken commandments always traveled with the Jewish people as a reminder of that dark chapter and they remind us today, that we must rebuild our communities as we look forward to the future of strong and united Jewish communities.

“Rabbis cannot do this alone. Just as Moses worked with the Levites, rabbis and congregants must work together to build our communities and to plan the Jewish future together.”

In keeping with the theme that it takes a community, the parsha began with a census. God did not command that a census be taken, but just got right into the technical details, “When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment, each shall pay the LORD a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled…the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel.” 

In this day and age, joining a community is voluntary. We are all equal, and we all need to work together for our island community to survive. An island is like a boat, and each member of the crew has a role to play to keep the ship afloat.

Shabbat Shalom

@jewishnewport @tourosynagoguenewport @newportri 

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