A Bisl Torah

Always in Reach

I had the blessing of addressing our Sinai Akiba Academy 8th grade graduates, and this is the story and message I shared:

As many know, the stories about the people of Chelm are completely absurd. They are considered a silly group of fools, characters that have little sense of the world. Often, Chelm stories provide a greater, deeper lesson.

One day, the people of Chelm were concerned to learn about a robbery in the synagogue. Thieves stole the tzedaka box! The Chelm leadership decided there was only one solution: construct a new tzedaka box and hang it from the ceiling! No chance for a robbery with that idea. The tzedaka box would be properly out of reach.

Other Chelm leaders countered the solution. How would anyone contribute back to the shul and give tzedaka to those in need? The leaders pondered the issue and came up with what they saw as an ingenious compromise: they would construct a stairway leading all the way up to the tzedaka box.

See what I mean about the people of Chelm?

But here is the greater lesson: we cannot let our Judaism be out of reach.

When one attends a Jewish day school, especially one within a synagogue, Jewish life is engrained in every moment. Mezuzot on the doorways, tzedaka boxes in classrooms, a ner tamid and sanctuary within which one prays. A flag for Israel turning our hearts towards Jerusalem. Judaism at our fingertips! And when one graduates and Jewish life doesn’t come as easily, the challenge is simple: will one let the synagogue and Jewish living become out of reach? Will one need to build a staircase to come closer to Jewish life that was once part of the every day?

My prayer to you on your graduation day: Let a synagogue always be within reach. Let Jewish living be close to your heart. Let the words of our faith and the traditions of our people remain active within your hands. Something that perhaps was taken for granted will now become a daily question and constant challenge.

In the future, you may find yourself feeling as if you have wandered away. Far from this holy place of safety, connection, and belonging. Far from God. Far from Jewish community.

But don’t forget: your rabbis, your cantors, your teachers, and mentors are here to remind you that within a synagogue, any synagogue, and especially within this synagogue, there is always room to find your way. To rediscover and strengthen your Jewish roots.

Just walk through these synagogue doors, the same doors you walked through each morning for class, each morning for tefillot, each morning as you grew from child to young adult. The doors of Sinai Temple, a place in which you will always, always be welcomed home.

And if you let us, we will be your partners in ensuring that Jewish life and Jewish living is as it should be—always in reach.

Mazel Tov to our graduates; you’ve made us very proud.

Shabbat Shalom

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