It is quite possible that, by Rabbi Maiman’s lights, I do
not know how to pray. I cannot recite the prayers with the competent
speed of his flock and I do not know all the intricacies of the
prayer book. But it is possible that Rabbi Maiman meant something
different. After all, our tradition informs us that the exemplar
of true prayer is Hannah, who poured out her soul before God with
such wild grief and depth of feeling that the High Priest thought
she was drunk. What does it mean to know how to pray? Is it the
intimate knowledge of the prescribed ritual, repeated and elaborated
over the centuries, or is it the direct line, the immediate contact
that Hannah seems to have experienced? Or, is it both? In our relationships
with our fellow human beings, for example, we rely on the stock
phrases and topics sanctioned by etiquette to smooth and facilitate
our daily interactions. These forms of communication didn’t
come to us naturally (as any parent of a small child knows all too
well, struggling to turn the rude “Gimme . . . “ into
a polite “May I please have . . .”) While we need the
polite forms and ritualized behaviors, most of us couldn’t
survive long if we couldn’t unburden our souls from time to
time to our family and friends. Perhaps our relationship with God
also follows this model. Perhaps many of us need the polite forms,
the ritualized address, to maintain the relationship on a daily
basis. And if we are lucky, occasionally that direct line opens
up, and we have a touch of grace.
* * * * * * *
On a more mundane, concrete note, I’d like to give you an
update on the status of our building project. This month, I’d
like to focus on the site work-- the outside work that we will need
to complete. Next month, I’ll focus on the inside work.
If you receive our newsletter, you've seen a bird’s
eye view of the Greenleaf site. This site plan shows the proposed
driveway and parking spaces, signage, new sewer connection, overflow
parking area, and location for tents for special events.
You can see that we will have parking spaces to the left of the
house and behind the barn. The traffic into and out of the site
will flow along a one-way, circular pattern with cars entering on
the paved apron right next to the house, and exiting by the outlet
directly opposite Green Meadow Street. It is a little hard to see
in the drawing, but a wooden deck will connect the house and the
cottage. A ramp will provide wheelchair access to the deck, and
wheelchairs will be able to pass directly from the deck into both
the house and the cottage.
The areas marked for tents and overflow parking require some explanation.
We have permission from the town to put up big tents (of the type
used for weddings) in the field for a maximum of six special events
a year. Since the sanctuary in the house will not be able to accommodate
large numbers of people, we may wish to have events such as weddings
and B'nei Mitzvah in tents in the field during the warmer months.
These tents would be temporary, installed in the locations indicated
for the event and taken down immediately after. When we hold a big
event, we will need additional parking. The bent rectangle marked
“Overflow Parking” in the drawing will accommodate cars
for such events. The overflow parking area is currently a field,
and a field it will remain. When we needed, it will be mowed cars
will park on the grass. We will be putting in a small paved apron
to allow cars to access the overflow parking area, but the field
itself will not be disturbed.
In addition to creating the driveway and parking spaces and building
the deck, we are required to complete a number of other site work
projects, including creating a new sewer connection, moving a fire
hydrant, and installing appropriate exterior lighting and signage.
If you are interested in the full list of required site work projects,
please contact me.
In considering the site work and the costs of the site work, estimated
at approximately $80,000, there are two important points to note:
- The site work depicted in the drawing is required by the state
and local governments in order to assure traffic safety, fire
safety, and handicapped access. This work is not optional.
- We need to do most of the site work not only
for our Phase One (renovating the house for use as a small sanctuary
and Hebrew school) but also for Phase Two of our building project
(building the new sanctuary that Michael Singer designed).
Stay tuned next month for a description of the work that we will
be doing inside the house!
And a Fundraising Update
As of the middle of March, we have raised $68,000 toward our total
goal of $150,000. So far, we have received contributions from 75
members, which gives us approximately 67% participation. We feel
that it is extremely important to have 100% participation in the
building program – each and every one of our members needs
to feel that the synagogue belongs to him or her. If you haven’t
sent in a check, please, please, please do so now! We need to raise
the funds right now, so that we can enter into contracts with builders,
excavators, plumbers and electricians this spring and summer. The
site work needs to be done during good weather and, if we miss the
window of opportunity this spring to get contractors signed up,
our project will be seriously delayed.
As we proceed with our fundraising efforts, the most important
principle, for me, is that no one should feel embarrassed, ashamed,
or pressured. The next most important principle is that everyone
– absolutely everyone – in the congregation should feel
ownership of our new building. I want to be able to say, later this
year, that our whole entire congregation, together, built our synagogue.
These two principles can coexist if each of us contributes what
we can. One family may be able to send in $18,000. Another may be
able to give $18. We need them both.