This week we say goodbye to the book of Genesis for another year, as we begin the book of Sh’mot, for which this week’s Torah portion is named. Abigail and I have decided to make it a Shabbat practice to learn about the week’s Torah portion. I truly enjoyed sharing stories of the lives of some of our most famous Biblical characters in Genesis with her. Often when she sees or reads something interesting, she will ask me who made it or who wrote it. When we go to the movies, she always wants to stay through the credits to see all the names, as she is interested in knowing who contributed to the creation of the film—even though she can’t read! I must confess that I, too, have adopted this practice, often looking for people I used to know when I was in show business, and sometimes (though rarely) finding them!
This reminds me of the first part of Sh’mot, which means “names.” Even though this parsha is chock full of some of the most dramatically moving and enticing stories of our Jewish people– our Jewish Hero, Moses, the Pharaoh who did not know Joseph, the Burning Bush, the Passover Story– it can be easy to fall asleep at the beginning of it because we do not get to these more exciting parts until we get through the diatribe of “names” of the twelve Tribes of Israel, which appear at the very beginning. It is almost like putting the credits at the beginning of a movie instead of at the end.
Our tendency is to often “zone out” while names are being read in thank you speeches, or to leave during movie credits. It is a natural human reaction. However, Rabbi Brad Artson teaches us: “By insisting that we endure several such lists, the Torah opens us to recalling our own dependency on others, and also spurs us to be such influences for those people whose lives we can touch.” I cannot help but be reminded of the incredibly long list of people I thanked at my installation, and the long list on my concert program. And there were countless others throughout previous chapters of my life who I did not mention—otherwise we would still be sitting there!
As I think about my incredibly long list of thank-you’s, I am reminded of our old slogan, “Many hearts, many hands, one home,” and our new one, “The Joy of Belonging.” The former has led us to the latter, and as so many people have personally become engaged and committed to our temple, that’s when they truly experience the Joy of Belonging. I am forever harping at both sides of my family to get engaged in their respective religious communities. Getting involved and participating in the life of our congregation allows us to be inspired by others, form lifelong friendships, and to serve God in ways we might never have thought possible. It also sends a message to our children and reminds us that someone always has our back.
You may have noticed that I like to sing with people and feature them. I believe part of my mission is to give people in the congregation an opportunity to not only have their names read, but also to shine in a way they may have always dreamed of, but might not have ever had the opportunity to do, such as leading prayer at the bima, singing in the choir, and more or less, allowing themselves to be featured while I stay in the background and help them shine.
Consider joining us and allowing yourself to be named. Even though you may not want the recognition, it will give your family all kinds of nachas (warm feelings/pride). And it will help everyone in our Temple Jeremiah community know that the goodness which goes on here does not happen by itself, or because of the clergy or staff. Rather, it happens because of those who choose to get involved and truly experience what a joy it is to belong to a community. And what a wonderful community it is. How grateful Ross, Abigail, and Zev and I are to be a part of it.
And P.S. If you are ever in charge of making a movie, consider putting the credits first. : )
P.P.S. Please consider participating in our Rock ‘n Roll Purim Schpiel, starring our Temple Jeremiah talented congregants! Email me if you are interested, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.