D’var Torah: September 10, 2015

Dear Friends,

We’ve nearly made it! We have entered the final stretch of our Jewish year, the last week of 5775. We stand on the precipice of the year to come, which will serve as the first full year, and certainly the first High Holy Day season, that we stand together as the Reform Temple of Rockland. Exciting times certainly lie ahead of us. Though there is plenty of work to be done and scores of challenges ahead of us, I am hopeful that, working together as a community, we will ultimately see the fruits of our labors and ensure the survival of our synagogue and Reform Jewery in Rockland County for the next generation.

In this week’s Torah portion, Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20), our ancestors also find themselves on the brink of something new and exciting. Moses gathers the people together, the descendants of the generation that came out of Egypt, as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. Moses declares to them that now they are entering the brit – the Covenant of God. What is perhaps most intriguing about this particular moment (which we also read again on Yom Kippur) is that Jewish tradition teaches us that all generations of Jews were present at this critical moment in our history – past, present and future – meaning that you and I were also there! Additionally, Moses explains to the people that the commandments, the Laws of the Torah, should be accessible to all who choose to examine them. Nothing in Jewish tradition should be out of reach, and each person who actively seeks and engages in the study of Torah should be able to find deeper meaning within it as well as a guide to a richer life.

Whether we were standing together thousands of years ago preparing to enter the Promised Land and the Covenant of God, or whether we are standing together today preparing to enter a New Year and preparing to reinvent our community by drawing upon the experiences of two historic Jewish institutions, what has not changed is our connection to Torah, to Jewish values and tradition, and to one another. Though our interpretations may vary from Jew to Jew, we share something truly unique and special. We should not ignore this gift, the gift of Torah, and we should do our best to make it relevant to each of our lives today. This is what Reform Judaism is all about. And if we use it as the foundation for the Reform Temple of Rockland, then we should be blessed, as our ancestors were blessed, with a blessed future.

L’shana tova um’tukah – may this be a wonderful, sweet and blessed New Year.

Rabbi Michael S. Churgel, RJE