Religious : : Thoughts from Our Rabbi

What place do we give to happiness in our lives? In our Talmud in the volume on fasting it says: When the month of Adar arrives, our joy increases (Taanit 29a). The month of Adar Alef arrives in 5779 as a leap year for our Hebrew calendar. Therefore, the joy of the Purim holiday extends for an additional month. Our rabbis tell us to increase our joy – this is directly linked to the Purim feast and the story of Megillat Esther (the book of Esther) in which we hear how our people survived an attempted genocide proposed by Haman some 2,500 years ago.

I’m struck by the fact our rabbis’ request that we be cheerful all the time is a difficult one. Purim teaches us a simple lesson, the joy of survival, the treasure of our lives. It teaches us the simple joy of LIVING as a people, or simply LIVING as individuals.

It is also important to recognize that life is not linear, sometimes there are moments of sadness, worry or tension. Here at Temple Judea we experience our joy through our connections to each other and our families.

I loved to celebrate my Bar Mitzvah Year at Temple Judea. In the Spring of 2006, I met with the rabbi search committee. I wanted to learn what the congregation was seeking from a spiritual leader. Then, after leading a weekday Minyan service, then leading Shabbat services, then a series of votes: first by the rabbi search committee, then the finance committee, then the religious committee, then the executive committee, then the board of directors, then a vote by the entire congregation, I began my service to Temple Judea July 1, 2006 as the congregation’s first full-time rabbi and spiritual leader and my first full-time pulpit.

My service to the Temple Judea community has been the highlight of my career. Serving as your rabbi has allowed me to serve God and our Jewish people, has provided me an invaluable experience and you have educated me in so many ways.

My most valuable experience is the lifelong relationship forged with so many of you. I’ve been privileged to stand with you and beside you at births, miscarriages, hospitalizations, baby- namings, weddings, renewals of vows, bar & bat mitzvahs, 2nd & even a few 3rd bar mitzvahs, at rehab, at illness, at family joys & sorrows, and at becoming members of our Jewish people.

I thank my bride Sima; our kids Adam, Jeremy, Maya; my parents; my brother and sister Neal & Dara; our friends of 40 years: Steve/Sharon Chase, John/Sandy Goodman, Norm/ Doreen Kingston, Al Cohen & Loretta, Bob/Marsha Sklar; our newer friends Jaap/Betty Laufer, my teachers Cantor Sam Fordis z”l, Rabbis Bergman z”l, Babin z”l, Simon, Shulweis z”l, Spitz, Artson, and all my teachers in LA and Jerusalem.

I thank that first rabbi search committee; I thank all the Temple Presidents since 2006, all 12 individuals who stepped up to be leaders of this community, a not so easy job. I thank each of you who served as board members or served as committee members who helped make this community a vibrant going concern – we’ve learned together, laughed and wept together, shared holy moments together, and reached higher together.

We are a family and I thank all of you, my caring community from the bottom of heart. None of this bar mitzvah year would be possible without all of you. Thank you.

B’vrachot, blessings, Rabbi Dennis