May 4, 2017

Those Whose Hearts Call

Those Whose Hearts Call
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
To look from the outside at Congregation Netivot Shalom, one would think that an army of employees were behind the scenes, creating and implementing our vibrant programs and ritual life. The glory of our community is the ongoing commitment to participatory leadership. Yes, the tasks involved in leading an institution, supporting our 400+ membership, and maintaining our beautiful building on University Avenue - Berkeley, surpass the capacity of our historic model. The needs are just too much for the infrastructure we currently have in place. But that will always be the case, even when our system catches up with the needs we know about.
But isn’t that glorious? To be a community that “invites you to engage in a cross-generational discovery of Jewish inspiration and purpose,” as our mission statement reminds us, means that we desire to grow and dream and build and love more and more. Which means that, if we’re blessed to succeed in our mission, Netivot Shalom will always need more support than we have in any given moment. That’s what a sacred community should long for: a virtuous circle that brings in more people to love each other and the world than can be managed!
I’ll close this short message with a story, something that just happened yesterday during Ketzev, our shul’s sweet afterschool Jewish learning program:
Every Tuesday and Thursday, it is my delight to lead our children in Mincha, davening with them, learning a bit, cultivating the kind of leadership that could lead to them claiming their roles in leading davening in our sanctuary one day. We each take turns singing the verses of Ashrei to a melody composed by Rabbi Shefa Gold. Some kids jump right in, and some are a bit more resistant, perfectly in-tune with their developmental stage, the hour of the day, and a peer group setting. I enter these moments with intentional optimism for the learning, while also prepared for some children to challenge my hope for spiritual cohesion in the moment ;-). One child who had been particularly resistant during the course of the past year, sat across from me this past Tuesday. We began the Ashrei, and when it came to this particular boy’s turn, suddenly a voice I hadn’t heard emerged, full-throated, and beautiful. He was singing! The Ashrei never sounded so beautiful! I looked at my fellow educators in our davening circle, and we, as one, looked to the Heavens with delight. (Perhaps a little surprise too!)
This moment makes real the very words that child sang: “God is near to those who call from their places of truth.”
What “God” means to you might be very different than what I mean by “God.” But that difference is also reflected in our unique life experiences, the very true “places” from which we call. And so I suggest, from my grateful heart: Let’s look at our shul as a sacred collection of unique life stories, from souls that have found themselves in community, a community committed to building a better world from many places of truth, truths big enough to include all those whose hearts call.

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