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The Three C’s

07/01/2020 10:05:16 AM


Rabbi Brad Levenberg

For this week’s Shabbat message, I am sharing words from the clergy report delivered at our most recent Annual Meeting.

Good evening. In a timeless story that is personally compelling, we are told of a synagogue that was built to be the majestic center of a Jewish community. Great care was taken to account for every detail – the design of the Ark, the shape of the Amud, the reading table, the flooring and seating to allow for maximum comfort and the architecture of the space ostensibly meant to inspire a close relationship with God. The community gathered for the building dedication, a ceremony filled with pomp and celebration. It was not until the sun began to set that one of the members of the community noticed how dark it was getting and asked if the lanterns could be illumined. The rabbi noted that the building was not designed with lanterns permanently affixed to the walls. Rather, he said, each household will receive a lantern to bring with you when you arrive in the sacred space. Thus will your solitary absence bring about the darkness, but our collective gathering will illumine our spaces, our faces, and our lives.

I’ve thought about that story quite a bit this year especially in conversations with the clergy team as we have considered how we illumine our spaces, our faces, and our lives when we are not able to gather together physically in our spiritual home on Dupree. We’ve learned a lot about what’s important, what makes us special, who we are and what we must hold on to in the midst of change. The answer, I have found, is a bit of what I like to call the three C’s: Content, Community, and Care.

First, I’ll start with Content. Obviously, this refers to the high quality, uniquely designed initiatives you’ve seen from Sinai. Over the years, we have built a brand that is compelling, stimulating, and adaptable to the contemporary challenges of our community. We’ve been able to accept the teachings from Jewish tradition – perhaps the most rich content ever available – and create programming around that content. When we realized the need to pivot to online gatherings, thanks to the creativity of our amazing staff and lay partners, Temple Sinai was able to do so rather quickly. While we of course miss our gatherings in our sanctuary and in our classrooms, we realized that we can light our lanterns in our homes each and every Shabbat, turning our kitchens and our living rooms and our guest rooms and our backyards into a Mishkan to ground us in our togetherness and with our God. Our homes became satellite classrooms for all our learners and those lanterns burned bright indeed.

The second C is Community. We are a powerfully connected community, engaged in multiple ways between congregants, staff, and clergy. We are committed to each other’s Jewish journeys and over these last few months have been committed to each other’s physical and emotional well-being as well. This is an area that makes us very special and as we go forward into the weeks and months to come, we must remain explicit about building and sustaining the community precisely because of the physical distancing. While we are proud of our building, and proud of our work over these last few years to renovate the campus to best mirror who we are, we have indeed found that who we are lies at the heart of our directory and not on our driveway. The building, we have learned, serves as the platform for our gathering, but the content is and always has been the Sinai community.

The third C is Care. This refers to the attention and high-quality service that supports our congregants and non-congregants alike. We care about each other, we are invested in each other, we are supportive of each other. And when our community is in crisis, we respond with care. Our enduring values demand that, even through the heartbreak of distance, we involve ourselves in the lives of others. Yes, we have supported congregants experiencing financial stress and, yes, we have supported congregants pastorally through this crisis. That’s also why we stepped up our support of the CAC and Family Promise during this time of COVID. That’s why we give what we can to the causes about which we care, why we support businesses when we can, why we support through our philanthropy the Jewish organizations that meet our ideals. It’s our caring that compels us to engage in the work of Racial Equity and Justice, of communal initiatives with aims like welcoming the stranger and pursuing hate crimes legislation. The caring is communal and it is personal; and it has been among the most important work in which we have engaged this last year. Sometimes, the lamps of others need our help and support to burn more brightly.

Content. Community. Care. We have our lanterns; they connect us to each other, and have illumined the reality that though not physically together we are not alone. We’ve gone through some hard times and, though we have prayed otherwise, it looks like we have a way to go until we are through this morass. We’ve individually experienced heartbreak, health concerns, a feeling of helplessness, and, yes, feelings of hope and optimism this past year. Look at what we’ve learned about ourselves; look at what we’ve proven about ourselves. We are the heirs to a remarkable tradition. We are a part of an amazing community. We are at our best when we are in service to others.

We are Temple Sinai.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Brad Levenberg


Mon, August 3 2020 13 Av 5780