Shalom Bayit means literally, peace at home. And, while the Talmudic scholars may tell us that it refers to marital harmony, the Scolnic scholars will all tell us that it refers to Temple harmony. For the past 28 years, Rabbi Scolnic has been counseling us in the importance of keeping the peace, maintaining positive relationships, and releasing personal grudges. While this advice has not always been popular, it works. I know it is not always easy to hear someone tell you to “let it go” when you feel slighted or wronged; but keeping the peace can be more important than personal pride.
This consistent message has kept our Temple united as a whole, with no “factions” or “cliques.” We work together on Committees and projects, we pray together, and we share meals together. After a recent event, I was approached several times by people commenting on how nice the volunteer “team” was and how much they enjoyed helping. As volunteers, they each felt that they were valued and that their contributions, whether large or small, were valued. We are a unified group with a commitment to Torah, Avodah, which refers to service to G-d, and Gimilut Hassadim which refers to acts of kindness.
This High Holiday season is an opportunity for all of us to take some of the Rabbi’s advice and focus on creating peace in our own lives. Whether it is a strained family relationship, a broken friendship, or simply an ongoing argument, reconsider the issue with a broader view. In this world where a “friend” is often times someone you only see through Facebook posts, real face-to-face relationships are priceless.
Similarly, consider your relationship with the Temple. Take the time during the Amidah to reflect on your relationship with G-d again. And again. Extend that relationship to the Temple and commit to increasing participation in the coming year. Commit to Shabbat services, minyan once a week, or volunteering for a committee. Commit through your High Holiday pledge, a donation to one of our funds, or a bequest. Commit to having Shabbat dinner, lighting the Shabbat candles, or performing Havdallah.
Torah, Avodah, and Gimilut Hassadim are the tenants of our faith. As we heard Rabbi Scolnic discuss on Rosh Hashanah, people view the Torah in different ways. However, whether people view it literally as 100% truth, allegorically as a series of proverbs to guide us, or anywhere in between, we all agree that the Torah contains in some manner the word of G-d. When we list Torah as the first tenant of our faith, we are declaring that the study of Torah, the learning of G-d’s words, is the most important thing in Judaism. But how many of us make time in our lives to study Torah? How do we study Torah if we can’t read Hebrew or find time to open a Tanach after working all day and driving the children around all night? We learn Torah by coming here. We come to Shabbat services and hear the words of G-d from the Torah reader, see the words of G-d during Haggbah, and learn the words of G-d through the Rabbi’s introductions and sermons.
The second major tenant of our faith is Avodah, which is work or service to G-d. This is an easy one – it’s one of those times in life you actually can just buy your way out of something. You can just make a donation to the Temple and your Avodah is complete. Of course, we need some people to do more than just give, and you can certainly do something other than give, but giving is something we need everyone to do at some level. Our annual budget is strained every year and in an effort to keep the dues to a minimum, we rely on donations. Our annual high holiday campaign is our largest fundraiser every year and is a critical part of our budget. I encourage all of you to consider your pledge amounts carefully and give what you can. If you spend less than a minute choosing an amount, than perhaps you have chosen less than you can afford. Our second largest fundraiser is our grocery card program. While the 3 or 5% profit from each card may seem minor, it adds up to a lot of money over the course of a year. I ask all of you to please consider stopping in to the Temple office once in a while to pick up some cards. Whether you budget weekly or monthly, please stop in and buy from us. I promise we will make it easy for you to get the cards.
Of course, Avodah is not all about money or work. It is certainly about serving G-d through prayer. Light the Shabbat candles at home each week. Honor G-d by having a special dinner Friday for Shabbat. Here at Temple Beth Sholom we make this easy for you. It takes 15 minutes to stop in for a minyan in the morning or evening. As a busy parent of four children with a demanding job I certainly understand how hard it is to get to minyan. But there are 700 of us here today, men and women, that count towards the 10 required to say the Mourner’s Kaddish in a minyan. To cover our 2 weekday minyans and one Sunday minyan, we each have to commit to 8 minyans per year. Not even once a month! Come before a Men’s Club, Sisterhood or board meeting. Come early to the Yiddish table or the movie program. Come at least once a year for a family yarhtzeit. Everyone has someone in the family they can honor by coming to minyan once a year on the anniversary of their death.
And finally, last but certainly not least, is Gimilut Hassidim, acts of kindness. This should be an easy one for everyone, but try this. Put out your hand, in a fist, and list 5 acts of selfless kindness you have done this week. Did you give a dollar to the beggar in the doorway downtown, serve a meal at the soup kitchen, or send money to the Mazon food relief fund? The Temple makes this easy for each of us to do by providing opportunities – the Temple is our agent and resource for kindness. Drop some food in the barrels or leave money for the Isaiah fund. Pick up one of our seniors and take them shopping or to a doctor’s appointment. Join the Mitzvah committee for an event at the Arden House. Follow the example of any one of our young B’nai Mitzvah and give some assistance to one the causes they have researched and publicized at their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
Shalom Bayit. Peace in the home. Peace in the Temple. Sometimes all it takes to maintain peace is time to be together. By attending Shabbat services, you are assured of a few hours with your family and friends. By having a Shabbat dinner, you are assured of gathering the family together at least once a week. By forming a monthly Shabbat group, you can be assured of seeing friends at least once a month. By making a financial contribution, you are assuring that the Temple will be here for future generations and allowing our programs to continue.
It has been an honor to serve as your President and a privilege to be given this opportunity for 2 years of Avodah. While we have faced our share of challenges over the past year, one thing I have learned is that it is not the President that solves everything. It is you, the membership. Our Temple has a long history of volunteers stepping forward to ensure we can pray together, have fun together, and learn together, and the President’s Award was created to recognize those individuals who have made particularly outstanding contributions year after year. This year’s recipient certainly meets those standards. She served as Ritual Vice President and Sisterhood Vice President, and has a long history of recognizing needs and implementing solutions. She recognized that the Torahs needed work, and she led a major Torah restoration campaign. She recognized the need for an opportunity to say Kaddish in the evenings and created the evening minyan program. She recognized the need for Shabbat Kiddush and organized the food. She saw the need for fundraising and stepped up to run successful High Holiday pledge campaigns. And every Holiday and Shabbat, for all the years that I have been a member, she has been standing on the Bimah serving as the Gabbi Rishon during the Torah service. So now Joan, it is time for someone to call your name for an honor. Ta’amode Joan Levine.