In this week’s Torah portion R’eih, we have another iconic speech from Moses, as he shares with the Israelites what will happen as they cross Jordan and enter the promised land. While many choose to focus on the words of Moses during this time, I like to take a step back and think about perspectives. We often analyze and discuss Moses the leader, but let’s think about the people.  

For many, there is a great sense of excitement. Here we are, finally entering the promised land! For others, there may have been a great deal of anxiousness or even fear of being thrown into something new. And of course, there are always going to be the group of skeptics who are really wondering deep down if this new promised land is going to be a better life for the Israelites. It is up to Moses to use his leadership skills to speak to and address all of those emotions simultaneously….a difficult job that is not easy to do!  

I find parallels to this situation, as we approach the High Holy Days season, as well as the first days of J-Quest. Many of our families and our congregants are in different places than they were last year. The common theme, however, is that all are looking to find personal connection. Every year, our clergy lead services and give sermons that inspire and give us the opportunity to stop and think about how it relates to us. While on the surface we are all hearing one sermon or saying one prayer, individually we are interpreting how these relate to our lives. It is so powerful to look out into the sanctuary and see so many people saying the same words, while finding different meaning.  

The same goes for our first days of J-Quest. This year, I am working to empower our teachers to not just greet our students with a hello but try to think of all the emotions that could be going on inside of our students. On the one hand, many will be excited to come back and run into Jeremiah ready to go. Others may need some time and will need a friendly voice of guidance to welcome them back into the building. For others, this may be the first time they are coming on a Sunday morning. What we often forget is that the same goes for the adults who are entering our building.  

As I wrap up, I just want to share how exciting it is to know that in just a few weeks we will be seeing so many of the friendly faces and families returning from summer. I hope that whether you come running into Temple Jeremiah with excitement or slowly walk back in with a bit of hesitation, you find that we are here to welcome you back with smiling faces and a warm sense of community.  

Shabbat Shalom, 

Matt Rissien