First, Notice and Care                                                       

Sermon for August 26, 2017

Dear Friends,

I have had several conversations already in the short time that I have been here in which a particular issue has arisen; different people have related the same scenario to me: “Rabbi, this thing happened to me (be it an illness, accident, or some other problem) and I stopped coming to services, or participating in some specific synagogue activity, and no one called me to see why I wasn’t around!”

I have to tell you, on some level I was shocked – this did not sound like the Mishkan Torah that I have known and loved for more than 40 years. First and foremost, even more than a synagogue, we have been a loving community. The bottom line is that we have always cared about each other and acted on that care by supporting each other whenever that support was needed.

On another level, of course, I can understand how people’s struggles could be falling through the cracks. We live in an increasingly distanced, disconnected, and dispassionate society, and perhaps that has begun to affect the nature of our congregation as well. This disconnect is ironic considering that, because of cellphones and social media, we are more electronically connected than ever before in human history. The price of that electronic connection seems to be the all-important human element. Think about it for a second – have the number of in-person, face-to-face conversations that you have had with those closest to you, immediate family included, increased or decreased in the last couple of decades? The sad reality is that we are constantly in touch but no longer connecting – the little blue thumbs-up icon has replaced the actual hug or handshake.

I’m not putting down social media – it is now how most of us live, after all – but I truly believe that we need to make a greater effort to reach out to each other in more meaningful ways. I will be addressing some basic but I feel to be crucial issues in our personal and congregational lives during the upcoming High Holidays, but I want to start right now with the most basic need of them all, and that is to notice the people around you, note their needs, pay attention to whether they have stopped being among us, and then actively reach out to them to inquire after their welfare. The bottom line: care about each other and act based on that concern. A tweet or a Facebook post is probably not enough – showing up in person with a smile, a hug, or a meal is the ideal way of being there for each other – it’s what a loving community does.

The flip side to that need, of course, is that we must make ourselves available to being in relationship with our community. If we need support, we need to let our community know, and not just sit around waiting for people to help, assuming people know about our situations. We need to be open and honest, and that, of course, means that we expose our vulnerabilities.

We learn from our tradition that if we are looking for the face of G-d, we find it in the faces of each other. May the coming new year bring us more opportunities to really see and be there for one another.

Shabbat Shalom!