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176http://www.beth-israel.org/blog/2014/01/RabbiLyonsBlog-01_10_2014
Rabbi Lyon's Blog - 01_10_2014
01/09/2014 07:00 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
January 10, 2014

 

Hanging in my father’s office was an animated ink-drawing of a person walking down a hill heading into a body of water while holding a sign that read “Forward!” Whenever I visited his office I found the message to be ripe with cynicism and deeply profound. In my father’s office it was a completely appropriate animation. He was a hard worker who labored every day as an architect to bring in business while hopelessly dependent on the cyclical economy and fickle clients. Following the path of the morose sign-bearer made an average day seem alright despite the despairing expectation of arriving at the water’s edge. That was my father, deeply realistic and cautiously optimistic.

                In the Book of Exodus this week we read the familiar story about the Israelites who followed Moses to the Red Sea as they escaped Pharaoh’s Egypt and his warriors. Now standing at the water’s edge, they encountered a deep reality that the waters were the only way forward but also their salvation. Torah doesn’t describe mob mentality at the water’s edge. No one was pushing and screaming to jump into the Sea. Rather, Midrash explains that one person stepped in first to show the way for others to do the same. His name was Nachshon (NACH-shown). Though Torah explains that an angel of God and a pillar of cloud stood between the Egyptians and the Israelites, there still had to be one person who took the first step. Nachshon is remembered as the one who demonstrated that the waters, while deep, would be their salvation, and indeed they were.

                On Sunday, January 12th at 10:00am in the sanctuary, we’ll enter the depths of Torah as we scribe the first letters of the first words of Torah, beginning with Bereisheet “In the beginning”. This foray into the People’s Torah project requires a fair amount of realism and optimism, too. Realism, because building Jewish identity and belonging requires personal and courageous steps to attach oneself to something as enduring as Torah in Judaism. Optimism, because the current dearth of good news about Jewish identity and belonging must motivate us to take up the challenge of our day much like our ancestors did in theirs and prepare for tomorrow with faith that Judaism really matters.

                On Sunday, January 12th at 10:00am in the sanctuary, come for a special opening program where you’ll meet Rabbi Salazar, the Sofer (scribe), and observe Joan and Stanford Alexander place their hands on the quill to scribe the very first letter of the Torah. Joan and Stanford are pillars of our community and stewards of Beth Israel by way of their deeds and wisdom. Like Nachshon, they’re showing us the way forward with faith that the ink we dip into to write a Torah for Beth Israel will be our hope and salvation, too. Come be part of this special day, hear from those who remember Dr. Barnston, family members of Rabbi Dr. Schachtel, personal words from Rabbi Sam and Joan Karff, and from me and my wife, Lisa.

                The Torah project in honor of Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Be there at the beginning. Join us throughout the year. Arrive at the culminating program next December when we celebrate the completion of the People’s Torah and say that you made the journey with us from the water’s edge to the future we’ll build together.

______________________________

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