This week’s Parasha is Vaietze, which literally means “he left”. It tells the story of our patriarch Jacob leaving the land of Canaan to escape from his brother Esau. After carefully reading the parasha, we found many analogies between the beginning of it and our own lives right now. Please allow us to share with you some of them.
This Shabbat we are being formally welcomed by Temple Beth El. Like Jacob, we also left our previous land, looking forward to finding a new home here with you. Four weeks ago we were saying goodbye to our previous congregation during Shabbat Lech Lecha, the parasha in which Abraham leaves his homeland. As you can see, the coincidences are following us!
After leaving his home, when Jacob was on his way to Haran, he noticed that it was getting dark, so he got ready to go to sleep. The Torah says Vaikach meavnei hamakom (Bereshit 28:11). Jacob took some stones he found and used them as a simple pillow. Like Jacob we are here in Lancaster trying to establish a home from local stones. We have received help and support from many congregants of Temple Beth El who have welcomed us with open arms and hearts. Toda raba, thank you very much!
Once Jacob falls asleep, he begins to dream: vehine sulam mutzav artza verosho maguia hashamaima, vehine malachei Elohim olim veiordim bo, “and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.” (Bereshit 28:12). We firmly believe that the task of Judaism in general and of rabbis in particular is to bring earth closer to heaven. To fulfill our dreams, we need to have our feet on the earth, but we must always head towards the sky. We are aware that in order to launch successful programs at Beth El we need to understand the human and material resources we have to work with. At the same time, we also know that we have to be courageous dreamers, always trying to move forward to achieve even bigger goals.
Jacob dreamed, and we also have many dreams related to this new path we are beginning to walk today:
– We hope to find our second home at Temple Beth El, and we hope its congregants will become our extended family. We are looking forward to developing bonds of friendship, confidence and affection. We are aware that, as in every family, being close brings times of arguments and disagreements. Despite this, we hope to be able to find ways to understand and respect each other, learning from each other. The most important thing to always have in mind is that we should work together, rabbis and congregants, for the sake of the congregation and the Jewish people. The common welfare of the congregation has to be above our own personal interests.
– We hope to become your spiritual leaders, in the deepest sense of the word. We hope to be able to listen carefully to your words and to your feelings, and that you find in us two rabbis who are willing to share with you your moments of happiness and sorrow. We are looking forward to knowing you and your families and sharing time with you.
– We hope to be flexible and understanding so that we can meet the needs and demands of the congregation and individual congregants. At the same time, we hope to be firm and loyal to our ideals and not yield easily to certain pressures when the situation warrants.
– We hope to work together with you in order to strengthen the Jewish life of the congregation, always trying to attract people of different ages with different interests and commitments. We would love to lead programs that allow more people to enjoy their Judaism, including children, teenagers, young adults, adults and seniors. We dream of a congregation full of smiles, prayers, study, songs, dances, food, friendship and mutual support.
– We hope to work together with you for the sake of the society in general, doing gemilut chasadim and tzedaka, good deeds and social actions.
– We hope to be worthy representatives of Temple Beth El, developing dialogue with other Jewish leaders, religious leaders of other faiths and the society in general. We believe that Judaism, and the Conservative Movement in particular, has a lot of great messages to share.
– We hope to be able to transmit to you our passion and love for our tradition, the Jewish people and Israel. We would like to teach you and also learn from you. Together with you, we would like to continue building a strong conservative congregation where traditional study and observance of the mitzvot is combined with an open and modern view of life.
After his dream, Jacob wakes up and he realizes how holy the place is where he slept. Then he takes one of the stones that he had put under his head, sets it up for a pillar, and pours oil upon the top of it. Then vaikra shem hamakom hahu Beit El, “he called the name of that place Beth-el” (Bereshit 28:19)… what more could we have asked for our welcoming ceremony sermon at Temple Beth El? As you surely know, Bet El (or Beth El in the English spelling) means “the house of G-d”. Our greatest wish is that we, congregants and rabbis, together will dedicate ourselves to the sacred duty of allowing the divine presence to dwell in this house.
Rabbis Daniela Szuster and Rami Pavolotzky