In the version I heard, a guy came to a Jewish tailor to have a suit custom-made. He returned a week later to pick up the suit at the agreed upon time but it wasn't finished yet. When the man came back a week later, the tailor said it still wasn't ready. Another week went by and when it was finally done, the man came in to try it on. To his great satisfaction, it fit perfectly! He had never been so pleased, yet he couldn't help but complain about the long wait:
“You know, God created the world in six days. Why did it take you three weeks to finish this suit?”
The tailor shrugged and simply said, “Look at the world.” Then beaming proudly at his own creation, he continued, “...but look at that suit!” The man couldn't argue. He happily paid the tailor and went on his merry way.
I've wanted to serve a congregation for a long time and can now happily say it was worth the wait because this is not just any congregation. My wife, Alexandra, and I are excited about living in Brattleboro and being part of such a unique and vibrant community. But I am even more excited about leading a congregation with the shared purpose of promoting the physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being of all whose lives we touch, most immediately its members.
I am confident you will soon notice the qualities of leadership I bring to this task. You'll find my approach to be rooted in a 'vision' that is impossible to articulate in the context of a few paragraphs or even a few sermons. It's a vision that breathes and unfolds like a flower, inviting those who take notice of it to appreciate and learn from what it has to offer. You'll miss out if you only expect to read about it from time to time in this newsletter. You'll probably want to experience it firsthand by participating in its unfolding.
One aspect of this unfolding is a deepening sense of “radical amazement” as Abraham Joshua Heschel described it. Rabbi Heschel (1907-1972) was a Warsaw-born civil-rights activist and a prolific author and theologian. He learned from his ancestors, some of whom were revered Hasidic rabbis, that true spirituality does not come from subscribing to a religious doctrine or community as much as it is a matter of engagement and direct experience. He was fond of quoting Psalm 34:8, which urges us to “taste and see the sweetness of the Lord.”
Fortunately this opportunity for engagement and experience is uniquely available to us at BAJC. We can help each other bring to light a shared vision that lies dormant just beneath the surface of activities, interactions, and everyday 'busy-ness.' Being Jewish is not just an ethnic identity as many people may think. It is also a response to a call that demands attention and action; a response patterned in some measure after the legacy our ancestors left us but a response to the very challenges and possibilities we face at this moment. It is not a matter of being 'chosen' as much as it is a matter of choosing.
I am confident that you, and many more, will choose to join me in responding to the tasks that await us. I am also confident that we will gain the attention of the many “Jews in the woods” who have until now been reluctant to identify with (much less participate in) any Jewish collective efforts toward social and spiritual transformation. It will become an obvious fact that when we come together as a community, informed by the extraordinary wisdom of our ancestors, we have a special gift to share with the world.
The tailor was right: our world is a mess and in desperate need of our help. But I am grateful to know that we are now 'well-suited' for both the challenges and possibilities that lie ahead. We'll be able to accomplish so much more together when we each participate in the unfolding realization of an inspired vision.
Your partner in this exciting journey,