On Sunday morning, August 6, Temple Emanuel removed its Torah scrolls from the ark. Please read the remarks I offered at this sad and mournful occasion.
My dear friends I just returned on Friday afternoon from a 12 day congregational mission to Israel and Poland. It’s about 3am for me right now. Hopefully, I’m going to make sense! On this trip I learned so many insights about the arc of Jewish history, insights that are relevant — and hopefully meaningful — to us this morning.
I learned that the Jewish people were welcomed to Krakow in the 14th century and expelled in the 15th. Polish Jews moved on to create new Jewish life in nearby Kazimierz and in other towns and villages of Polish Galicia. So too, the Jewish people arrived in Warsaw in the 15th century and expelled in the 17th. Polish Jews moved on to create new Jewish life in Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania.
I learned that the Jewish people were expelled from Jerusalem by the Roman emperor Hadrian in the mid-2nd century. Jews moved on to create new Jewish life in Rome, Alexandria Egypt, Constantinople, and North Africa. The Jews who remained in the Land of Israel moved on to make a new life for themselves in the Galilee.
Indeed, when all seemed lost after the destruction of the great 2nd Temple in Jerusalem, it was the in the Galilee that a new Judaism arose from the ashes. In the new holy cities of Tiberias and Sepphoris (Tzipori in Hebrew), the Temple was succeeded by the synagogue, the priest by the rabbi, the study of the Torah by the study of the Mishnah and the Talmud. It was in Tiberias that the system of Hebrew vocalization – the dots we place above or below the Hebrew letters — was invented.
We Jews have never wanted to leave our communities, to pick up and move, to embrace radical change. We were happy in Krakow, in Warsaw, in Jerusalem and in so many other communities around the world — including Livingston.
By the same token, we Jews have always accepted the reality of our situation. We always found the way to look forward — not back — and to build an even better and even more glorious Jewish life in new communities, whether that community be in Babylonia or Shanghai or London or America.
Like so many Jewish generations before you, Temple Emanuel, today you move on from Livingston to Summit. God knows you do not want to go….But like so many Jewish communities before you, you are resilient, you are ready to do what you must, you are prepared to rise to the occasion. Do keep in mind that the commute between Livingston and Summit is nothing compared to the commute between Rome and Jerusalem!
And don’t forget this Temple Emanuel: You take with you everything that is most important. You take with you your Sifrei Torah, you take with you your customs and traditions and — above all– you take with you each other!
Like so many Jewish generations before you, a glorious new future awaits you Temple Emanuel.