This week we examine Parashat Bechukotai, which concludes our reading of the Book of Leviticus. Much of this portion of our Torah involves Blessings and Curses. If the Children of Israel follow God’s commandments, they will reap bountiful rewards and prosperity for generations to come. But if they stray from the path of the righteous, they will be inflicted with plagues and the wrath of the Eternal. Though many scholars tend to focus on the Tochachot – the curses – and the extreme severity of these punishments, I feel at this time in our congregation’s history it is important to reflect upon the rewards received by following a designated plan.
The Children of Israel were fresh out of Egypt when they received The Law at Sinai. They had to learn how to survive in a new reality (they were no longer slaves – they were free!), and they had to organize themselves in a new setting (not Egypt) as a new community. They were given a very specific set of rules and guidelines and blueprints to follow to set up their religious practices, and they had a sourcebook for rules to live a righteous life in a just society. If they believed in God, if they believed in the leadership of Moses, Aaron, Miriam, and the Tribal Elders, if they believed in themselves that they could do what they were being asked, then they, and the countless generations that would follow, would experience blessings of land, food, wealth, and most importantly, community.
We might consider ourselves in a similar place at this point in our synagogue’s history. We are still very young as a community, that is, our united community of RTR. We have recently consolidated into a new home. We are still defining what it means to be a community and how we will function long term. Our leadership is developing, and our spiritual leadership is emerging. If we trust in God, our leadership, and ourselves, and if we stay true to our mission as a synagogue community and Reform Jewish life, The Reform Temple of Rockland should experience a multitude of blessings in the years to come, and ideally emerge as a vibrant and healthy organization, a beacon for Reform Judaism in Rockland County.
As my time with you draws to a conclusion at the end of this month, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for welcoming my family and me into your lives over the past three years. Like the Children of Israel, we certainly shared countless blessings and blessed occasions together, creating memorable moments that for some of us will last a lifetime. As you continue on your journey with Rabbi Sharff and Cantor Neff at the spiritual helm, I ask that you trust in their leadership, enable them to share their dreams for the future with you, and together you should work hard to make those dreams a reality.
May The Reform Temple of Rockland go from strength to strength.
Chazak Chazak v’Nitchazek!
Wishing you blessings as you continue on your sacred journey,
Rabbi Michael S. Churgel, RJE