Welcome from Rabbi Lewis


The following are sermons and thoughts of Rabbi Lewis to her congregation. Please visit this section frequently to see what's new on her mind.

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Temple Menorah Rabbi's Weekly Message
Giving Torah, Receiving Torah.

One season was the extent of it.  Gone in an instant. At least that is how it felt to my family and friends who encouraged me to play. When I was a child, I played softball…for one season. And never again. You see, it seems that in order to succeed in this game, one needs not only to be able to hit the ball and throw the ball, but it turns out that it is actually a strategic benefit to also be able and willing to catch the ball. For the young me, hitting and throwing were not a problem. Yet apparently closing one’s eyes and holding one’s glove at a distance in hopes that the ball would somehow magically land there doesn’t count as skillful catching! Hitting and catching are two very different ventures and no play can be complete without both.

As we have heard from our students, tonight begins Shavuot, the festival known as z’man matan Torahteinu, the season for the giving of Torah. For you see, tradition holds that it was on this day that God gave the commandments to Moses at Mount Sinai. The commandments, the foundation of Torah.

But tonight, we also celebrate Confirmation, the night when these young leaders in our congregation confirm their rightful place in this Jewish community. And they do it with Torah right here, in the heart of this ceremony and in the heart of each individual on the bima tonight.

This festival may indeed be about the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai, but THIS night, this Confirmation eve, we rejoice as well that clearly, you all have received it. You have caught the ball and now, to you, emerging young adults in our midst, I say, ‘it’s your play now.’

Passover, Pesach, was just 49 days ago. Sitting around seder tables, we read on that night about the four children who asked questions. And each child, in his or her own way, asked about the ritual. They asked about the Exodus. They asked about Torah: ‘What’s it all about, anyway? Why does it matter?’ Tonight, seven weeks later, that question is turned on its head. On this night, we, the adults, ask you, the Confirmands, ‘What’s it all about, anyway? What does the Jewish tradition that you are here to confirm your relationship with look like in this day? And what will it look like tomorrow?’

Much of this group has been around Temple Menorah and together since their days in Tuvia – and others joined in the elementary years -  and I think it is a fair assessment to say that they know each other pretty well. As the new rabbi coming in just in time for their Confirmation year, I was concerned that they might not open up. But I am thrilled that in one short year there have been countless hours and experiences when they did, in fact, open up and allow me to get to know them as individuals and as a group, a force to be reckoned with!  What I have come to learn is what many of you, their parents and grandparents and siblings and friends and teachers and Temple Menorah clergy and staff, have known for many years.

Through our discussions about how Judaism can help them think about issues that are pressing to them, and our discussions about God and our discussions about our broken society and what they can do about it and our red eye flight that found us strolling through the Detroit airport at 3:00am and our power walking tour of Washington, DC replete with centers of democracy, national landmarks, a ton of hot chocolate and an albino squirrel, and through a group text that you sometimes forgot I was on (J) and so much more, I have begun to get a sense of what Torah and Jewish tradition are all about as you receive them and know that the play is yours to make. I hope that indeed, all of us ‘old ones’ will continue to ask you ‘what it is all about,’ and be willing to follow your lead. Tonight, while we have you all together, a couple of insights I have gained from you, in our time together:

Knowing this group, I know that the Torah they carry with them is alive and vibrant.

Knowing this group I know that the Torah they carry provides guidance and direction when they are busy attempting to navigate a ridiculously complicated life.

Knowing this group I know that the Torah they carry provides a sense of belonging and home – here, when they are with one another and it will continue to do so even when they are not together with such regularity.

Knowing this group, I know that the Torah they carry encourages them to question and to search and to interpret.

And knowing this group, I know that in the Torah they carry, there is immense and necessary space to unwind and have fun and to laugh. Boy do they laugh.

Not only the Torah that they carry in their arms, but also the Torah that they carry in their every thought and breath and action, is a Torah worth receiving.  In his well-known book, Tales of the Hasidim, the great twentieth century sage, Martin Buber, wrote about the Kotzker Rebbe, the leader of Hasidic Judaism. The rebbe was asked, “Why is Shavuot called ‘the time of the giving of Torah,’ rather than ‘the Time that the Torah was received?’” His answer is an answer for all of us. “The giving of Torah took place on one day, but the receiving of Torah takes place at all times.”

Mia, Ben, Katherine, Melanie, Sofia, Hayden, Jack, Henry, Olivia, Michael, Joey…Your Torah is a good one.  Carry it, live it, receive it every single day. When you do that, you will inspire us to receive it as well. ‘It’s your play now.’