Just a litte more than three years ago I fell in love with a congregation. There was something genuine about the people I met; a lack of pretension; a sincere desire to move forward into the uncharted waters of the future.
Above all, I felt a sense of community; one made up of many diverse, interesting individuals from all over.
It’s significant that the Hebrew term for synagogue, beit knesset translates into house of gathering; as opposed to beit t’philah which means house of prayer or beit midrash which means house of study (literally house of investigation). Beit knesset suggests the importance of how people can come to gather together and share experiences with one another.
Experiencing life as part of a community is essentially very different from experiencing it as an individual. One may have to sacrifice independence and autonomy; at the same time one shakes off the sense of loneliness that may be at the very basis of a certain depression that dogs our society.
It does take some acquired skills to form a community. Having the patience to allow process to take place doesn’t come naturally. Some time ago, (and after learning the hard way) I discovered the principle; if you have a decision to make, and that decision will affect others, then make sure you share that decision with them.
Just because someone doesn’t totally agree with you doesn’t mean they don’t agree with you at all!
It’s OK if you don’t get your way all the time!
Sometimes a simple phone call just to say,“I didn’t see you last week. I just wanted to make sure you’re OK.” can make a huge difference in a peson’s day.
Learning to take pleasure in the success of others gives you lots of reasons to take pleasure!
Listening patiently to the trials of another and offering sincere sympathy as opposed to unsolicited advice can help that person more than you realize.
Something that constantly impresses me is the number of people at Beth Ami who go out of their way to visit people who aren’t as mobile as they once might have been. They may help them purchase groceries or take them to doctors’ appointments even provide them with a ride to services over Shabbat.
Simple acts of kindness, true! But they make all the difference in bringing joy to people’s lives.
So much of this is reflected in the passage from the Talmud (b.Shabbat 127a): “These are the deeds that yield immediate fruit and continue to yield fruit in time to come: honoring parents; performing deeds of lovingkindness; attending the house of study punctually, morning and evening; providing hospitality; visiting the sick; helping the needy bride; attending the dead; probing the meaning of prayer; making peace between one person and another; and between husband and wife. And the study of Torah is the most basic of them all.”
As I come to my third anniversary in this wonderful community, I thank you for the opportunity to share my life with yours.