A message about hearing each other

Dear holy friends.

It was a joy to see so many of you in our beautiful sanctuary over the two days of Rosh Hashanah.

On the first day of the holiday something unusual happened: someone who took issue with my sermon came up to the bimah to offer impromptu remarks in response.

Please know that I welcome responses to my sermons and my divrei Torah. If something I have said resonates with you, or concerns you; brings you joy, or upsets you; whatever your responses are, I want to hear them. My office door is always open. Please don’t hesitate to email, to call, or to come and see me. But I ask that you please not offer your responses during services, as doing so is disruptive for others who have gathered in prayer.

I want our synagogue community to be a space where we can all be heard and where we can all feel safe. We all need to partner in creating both a safe place for all kinds of expression, and a safe space for prayer and spiritual experience. Being in community isn’t just about how I relate to each of you (and vice versa) — it’s also about how we all relate to each other.

Shema, Yisrael — Hear, O Israel! Every day we are called to hear the still small voice of God, and we are called to hear one another. Sometimes this means hearing things which are painful or uncomfortable. During these Days of Awe, we focus on teshuvah: we turn toward God, we re-turn to our truest selves. Learning to hear one another is part of that process of teshuvah.

During these holy days, I invite each of us to think about how we respond, individually and communally, when we hear things we don’t like. We learn about ourselves when we bump up against viewpoints with which we disagree. I invite each of us, during this holy season, to consider what we do with our most deep-seated and heartfelt reactions. I invite us to examine how we respond to conflict and to disagreement in our own lives.

And I invite us to learn, together, how to hold with love and compassion the people whose opinions may push our buttons. In our local community there are surely disagreements; how much more so among the global Jewish community of klal Yisrael. I believe that our many diversities are holy; that our community is strengthened, not weakened, by our differences.

It’s the beginning of a new year. There could be no better time to set the conscious intentions of listening to one another, of caring for one another, of creating a community where all perspectives are valued and everyone feels safe. We have an opportunity to make space in our community, and in our hearts, for a pluralism which is deep and real.

May these Ten Days of Teshuvah bring you ever closer to God, to our community, and to your deepest self. I am blessed to be able to serve you.

L’shanah tovah,

Reb Rachel


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