“Warmth” may be the word I use to meditate on my experience serving as the visiting student rabbi at Temple Israel this past weekend. The smiles were wide enough to brighten even the darkest room. Of course, leading Shabbat services, engaging in text study, and delivering a d’var torah were a standalone blessing, allowing me the opportunity to play the role of a rabbi for a weekend, further invigorating my love of community, Jewish morals and ethics, and intellectual rigor. That being said, it is somewhat challenging for me to distinguish feelings of gratitude for the present moment from feelings of deep nostalgia. Standing in front of the congregation in which I grew up flooded back memories of religious school spaghetti dinners and the poignant conversations that followed. It reminded me of the hours upon hours spent studying liturgy, torah, and text for Bar Mitzvah. Childhood Shabbat songs and musical segments from interfaith choir rehearsals trickled into my ears. Simply put, returning to Temple brought warmth to my heart beyond comparison.
In this week’s parasha, parashat Sh’lach, the Jewish people travel from Mount Sinai toward the Promised Land. Interestingly enough, the Israelite people are not merely referred to as the traditional b’nei yisrael, the children of Israel. Rather, we can see the additional phrase of kol adat b’nei yisrael, the entire Israelite community. Temple Israel is not just my people–it is my Israelite community. It is my hope that our relationship continues to flourish in meaningful and fulfilling ways in the future. Kein y’hi ratzon, shabbat shalom!