Who Is Truly Honored?
Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, answers the question of who is truly honored in Chapter 4: “Who is honored? One who honors his fellows.” Rabbi Scheff and I were honored this past Monday night at the annual dinner of the METNY District of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. We both felt pride in being singled out and the joy of being celebrated. We were prouder still of Javier Rosenzwaig, one of five laypeople from the entire district honored as an emerging leader. We all know how much heart and soul Javier gives to the OJC and to our mission.
Yes, Rabbi Scheff and I felt honored. What we felt even more powerfully, however, was that in accepting the accolades of METNY, we were acknowledging our extraordinary OJC community.
We were honored because we honor all of you. And you are honored because of the way our synagogue continually strives to honor our neighbors, our fellow Jews in Rockland, in Israel, and the world, and all people created in the image of God.
Rabbi Scheff spoke about the partnership of Joshua and Caleb in this week’s parasha, Sh’lach L’cha. If there had been just one spy alone against the majority, would he have had the strength to stand up and say, “Let us by all means go up”? Relationships are the key to a synagogue that operates with optimism and courage. Lay leadership and clergy work together to meet the needs of the community. At the OJC, we are saying, “Let us by all means go up” every day!
I spoke about God’s command to Moses to send men to spy out the land. In that word L’cha (for yourself) lies the difference between the fear of ten spies and the vision of Joshua and Caleb. Ten men went only for themselves, with their own personal worries and concerns. They forgot that they were part of an endeavor larger than their own worldview. Joshua and Caleb might have been just as concerned as the other ten, but they remembered that their mission was God directed and the outcome was promised in advance by God. They remembered that “for yourself” is complete only when “yourself” and “others” are linked into a common commitment. At the OJC, we strive in every ritual, minyan, program and interaction to remember that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. No less than the spies, we are on a mission directed by God.
Todah rabbah, METNY District, for this great honor.
Rabbi Paula Mack Drill