The Mishnah asks: are we permitted to interrupt our singing the Shema – the watchword of our faith – in order to greet another person? The ancient rabbis offer striking advice: you can interrupt a prayer to God in order to acknowledge the presence of another human being. Judaism’s profound idea is that human life and relationship are fundamental to spiritual living. This is much more than a matter of synagogue etiquette; this is a Jewish reminder that in our places of prayer, in our hearts and in our lives, the Divine and human share sacred space. The enduring idea that transcends lifetimes and generations, is that the sanctity of God is found in the relationships and communities that we create. That is what we do when we name a baby, or sing and pray at a service led by a bat mitzvah student, visit someone in the hospital, when we rejoice with couples under the chuppah, stand with others as they recite the Mourners’ Kaddish for their loved ones, or make sandwiches for the hungry.
These ideas aren’t just ancient; they are modern too. Recent sociological studies have found that the relationships created in a religious community pay huge dividends and can contribute to our sense of connection. As we get older and our priorities shift, maintaining relationships and developing new ones often become more difficult. Staying communally engaged is integral to our sense of belonging, becoming, and our personal fulfillment. We cannot forget that humans are, by our very nature, social creatures. From pre-historic camp-fires to our kitchen tables, it was in our homes and neighborhoods and in our synagogues, where we formed relationships that add substance and support and meaning to our lives.
At Temple Beth El, we believe that our lives and faith are more than a passive experience. We are weavers of a social fabric that is shaped by the idea that when we are in relationship and well-connected, we can better care for the well-being of one another. And when we support the Jewish spiritual growth and learning of one another, we live better and richer and fuller Jewish lives. This is why Temple Beth El proudly opens our doors to everyone: to people who have grown up Jewish, interfaith families, Jews of color, LGBTQ, young and the young-at-heart, and everyone who is seeking a community of warm welcome and embrace. We invite all stakeholders and community members and leaders to create personal meaning, learn from the received wisdom of our faith, and support one another in a world that increasingly looks scary.
An example of this is in our incredible TriBE small groups initiative. Over 300 members of Temple Beth El are meeting regularly as part of small groups of five to fifteen people in homes, offices, and other places that promote relationship building. They are self-led. Some TriBEs connect around common interests and affinities. Others are gathering to discuss topics of importance in their lives. All are engaging in meaningful conversation and Jewish learning. TriBEs are our effort to deepen connections with one another, to Temple, to God, and to rhythms of Jewish time and life. The arc of Eternity is illumined by precious human encounters at each step of the way. The ultimate wisdom of the Mishnah is that the human greeting is not an interruption of the Shema at all. It is the fulfillment of the Shema: of the Oneness that is God and the Oneness to which God calls us.
Join Us for Shabbat
Shabbat worship is the highlight of our week, where music lifts our souls, meditative moments bring us closer to our holy selves and relationships deepen. We come together every Friday night at 6:00 PM and every Saturday morning at 10:30 AM during the Summer. 7:30 PM Services will start in September. We also have a dynamic Torah Study on Saturday mornings at 9:00 AM. For more information visit: www.templebethel.org.