Farewell Address Temple Shaaray Tefila 6/15/18

Farewell Address
Temple Shaaray Tefila
Bedford, NY
6/15/18

There is an old rabbi’s joke about an itinerant preacher
— a maggid — who goes from town to town speaking, with only one sermon to speak.
That sermon covers the rebellion of Korach and his minions –against the leadership of Moses and Aaron. When the maggid spoke during the week of parshat Korach, of course, he was on point. But what did he do the rest of the year? He would get up to speak, reach into his pocket for his speech, pretend that he had dropped it, and then, after a lengthy search,
announce, “My sermon is gone! It must have been swallowed up by the earth, just like Korach! And speaking of Korach….”

I’ve delivered many sermons over the course of my 10 years at Shaaray Tefila-
And yet it seems symbolic that my final address is on the same Parshah
as the day I became Bat Mitzvah- the very moment that began my journey to the rabbinate.

This dramatic story tells of Korach, Moses’ first cousin, a learned man and a respected member of the Levites stirring up a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, with the aim of replacing Aaron as High Priest. Korach had a number of followers, one of whom was called On the son of Pelet-But at the last moment On dropped out of the dispute
And was thus was spared terrible fate of Korach and his supporters –being swallowed up by the earth.

The Talmud asks: What saved him? Apparently, it was On’s wife –She convinced her husband not to join the rebellion. She understood that the timing wasn’t right and the effort misguided. In doing so she saved her husband and her entire family from destruction.
When highlighting this episode, Scholars teach that On’s wife exemplifies the special gifts given to women at the time of creation saying- “An extra measure of understanding was given to the woman,” Women have a special spiritual power. It is a Divine gift.

Along this line, the Rabbis teach – regarding the generation of Israelites who were slaves in Egypt –that while the men had fallen into abject despair which would lead only to destruction, the women had hope and faith and therefore succeeded in preserving the existence of the Jewish people. Through their merit were the Israelites redeemed. Indeed, this is born out by the 4 women of the Exodus. The story begins with Batya, Moses’ adopted Mother. Her story is told in just a few lines: She was the daughter of Pharaoh, bathing in the Nile one day when she finds a child hidden in the bushes. She knows he must be an Israelite and should be killed according to her father’s decree. But, she can’t do it. When she sees the baby, the text tells us she took pity on the child. The Midrash teaches that because she adopted this child, God adopted her. She converted and went out of Egypt with the Israelites. Batya personifies compassion and feelings, understanding the needs of others.

The story continues with Yochevet, Moses birth mother. Batya hires Yochevet to nurse the child… as the Torah says, “and she took the child and nursed him.” Our sages explain that she was the one who taught him Jewish values during the most impressionable years of his life. She reminded him who he was and where he came from. Yochevet represents a woman as teacher of her children.
But Yochevet had a daughter who was completely different—Miriam. Moses’ sister, was a feisty, bold, organizational woman. She had a mouth and she used it—to sing, to challenge her brother and to lead the community. Miriam was the first public female figure in Jewish history.
And then there was the fourth woman in Moses’ life who made a very different choice.
Zipporah, Moses wife. a stay at home mom who raised two sons and nurtured her family.

4 different women, 4 legitimate choices. And I have had the privilege of serving as all 4.
At Temple Shaaray Tefila, both personally and professionally, I have found a home and a community. I have grown as a rabbi, as a mother and as a Jew.

During my tenure here, you have shared your lives with me- You have enabled the Batya in me to be present with you. I thank the families that form this congregational community
for including me in your joys and sorrows, in your hopes and dreams.
I have had the opportunity to teach your children. You have inspired the Yochevet in me to pass on our beautiful tradition. I thank my co-workers and colleagues Barbara Murray, the director of our Religion School and Debra Frankel, the director of our Early Childhood Center for their talent and creativity and for allowing me to share with our children my passion for Judaism and in some small way to help shape their Jewish identity.
The past 10 years have been a time of growth and innovation in our congregation.
You have invited my input, and included me in the planning of many new initiatives. You have embraced the Miriam in me. I sincerely thank our Temple Presidents and the dedicated lay leadership of this congregation for allowing me to serve as your rabbi.
I thank Barbara Merson and Dale Glasser, our former and current Executive Directors, for their fantastic editing and for keeping me on task. And I thank the office staff- Beverly, Robin and Cheryl for making sure there is always coffee and for keeping me organized.

This congregation has welcomed and sustained my family- We have celebrated consecration and B’nai Mitzvah, Confirmation and graduation here. My children recognize this building as their home away from home—and I am thankful to Kenny, Alli, Shalyn and MJ for filling our hearts with music and nurturing the Zipporah in me.

If indeed it is true that at the time of creation, God bestowed upon women special Divine gifts… then it is also true, that we need inspiration in order to develop them…and my partners, my role models and my friends, Rabbi Greenberg and Rabbi Nevarez, surely have been an inspiration to me- I thank you David for serving as my mentor
and helping me become the rabbi that I am, I thank you Jason for being my teacher, my sounding board and my support. As I continue my journey, into a new wilderness… I am so grateful to my husband, Andrew and my family who inspire me every day.
I am so very blessed by the Divine gifts that Shaaray Tefila has bestowed upon me- You all have brought joy and holiness into my life..
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.

 

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