Sunday, September 01, 1996

Introduction and Holiday Greeting

Introduction and Holiday Greeting

Rabbi Michael Feshbach
Temple Anshe Hesed, Erie, Pennsylvania

It is a campaign year, and Bob Dole offers himself as a bridge to the past. President Clinton counters that he is a bridge to the future. My friends, I want to add a nomination to the process - not for president, but in this sudden search for the best bridges.

I nominate my religion , my spiritual tradition of Judaism , as a bridge to both the past and future, whose span begins at one end at a lonely mountain long ago, and whose other ends stretches farther than any eye can see, unfolding , being built even now. And I want to share with you my own take on that bridge , one spire among the many that stretch out across the horizon.

My name is Michael Feshbach. I am a Reform rabbi, spiritual leader of the 240-family Temple Anshe Hesed of Erie, Pennsylvania, (which is halfway in between Cleveland and Buffalo for those who haven’t heard of it). I approach Judaism from a progressive, non-fundamentalist point of view. I believe, clearly, that G-d speaks to us as human beings...

My difference with the fundamentalists is that they believe that G-d speaks clearly. But I believe that all of our lives as are struggle to figure out what the voice we heard at Sinai still wants of us today. In our own time; our own place; our own lives…..

And I believe that the Torah, indeed, our entire tradition that bridges so many centuries and spans so many civilizations, is a mosaic even more than it is Mosaic , a beautiful patchwork quilt of our people 's ongoing effort to respond to the voice of the living G-d.

I look forward to sharing that search with you, to offer insights and hear your responses, to turn questions into quest and uncover the wholeness... and holiness... at the heart of our lives.

We begin our stroll on that bridge together next week. For now, I include below my wishes for all of us as the new year of 5757 begins.

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My congregation in Erie will soon be rolling up its sleeves... and working on building a house. Not our own for someone else.

It is an appropriate thing, to be working on houses, as the High Holy Days come.      For as we hammer and nail, as we sweat and serve, as we, in other words , with care and spirit work on the building of a physical house at this time of year, so, too, should we devote care and spirit to our inner houses. Our own spiritual journeys and our own spiritual home…..

The words on the outer wall of our synagogue are based on, but an expansion of, the words of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah saw a vision of when our spiritual home would be "a house of prayer," open to all. But we add more. For our goal as a synagogue is, indeed, to be "a house of prayer, a house of study, a house of fellowship for all peoples."

All synagogues, all centers of Jewish spiritual life are called upon to be a house of fellowship, a community. May our efforts this coming year wherever we live serve to bring people together, to emphasize the care for one another that can, if we let it, transcend all argument.

May it be, for us, at our simchas and our celebrations , and in sadness and sorrow diminished by being shared, may it be at a Bar Mitzvah and not a bar... where everybody knows your name.

We are called upon to be a house of study, an academy. This coming year, may we make the time for study, may we be able to take advantage of all the opportunities around us, in congregations, in community centers, in cyberspace, in the arena of lifelong learning. May our opportunities for study both serious and fun, both intellectual and spiritual, reading       Maimonides and making Matzah balls. May each one of us respond to the timeless call of Torah.

We are called upon to be a house of prayer, a place of spiritual transformation. In a sermon in early August, I spoke of that scene from the old Milton Berle show, in which a woman in love with Berle put her arms around him and said: "Oh, Milton. It’s bigger than both of us."

Coming together in prayer is more than a chore; it can, if we let it, rise to the level of profound opportunity.  For each service, we come together but once, a unique assemblage of particular people at that particular service. But in coming together we embrace a chance... that our lives may touch each other’s, that our journeys may, for a moment, overlap, which we can each find a place where we can look beyond ourselves. And, in so doing, find ourselves anew.

This coming year, may each of us stand on the stage in each of these arenas of Jewish religious life. May our spiritual homes be a place where we come together to break bread , to expand the mind , to grow in spirit and in soul.

This year may we find our noblest ideals realized, our highest hopes fulfilled, and our lives linked with one another in fulfillment of our ancient and ever-unfolding mission as a holy community.