Sharing Our Spiritual Journeys

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Rabbi Yitzhak, July/August 2010

This is my first opportunity to write a newsletter article since Shonna and I returned from spending nearly six weeks living in Jerusalem. I look forward to sharing with you about our journey during the High Holy Days as our time in Israel had a profound impact on our lives. While tempted to write about our journey, I will focus instead on some thoughts and experiences I’ve had since returning from our travels.

I returned to TBI the day of our annual auction; I was touched by the realization of how glad I was to see the wonderful people I work with and a vibrant gathering of so many TBI members. My eyes were refreshed by the time away and I viewed with new perspective the vitality and goodness of life at TBI.

More recently, our community shared with four very devoted members of our congregation as they celebrated their adult B’nai Mitzvah. After two years of focused learning Nina Korican, Nathan Philips, Lucy Zammarelli and Patti Zembrosky-Barkin shared in leading a Shabbat morning service, reading from the Torah, and offering us glimpses into the richness of their individual spiritual journeys that led to their joining together in this special rite of passage. The enthusiasm and joy felt in our sanctuary and social hall were palpable. Family members came from great distances to join in this precious occasion and there were many moments during the service that caused the near depletion of our Kleenex supply.

After the service, I was approached by nearly a dozen members who wanted to sign on to have an adult B’nai Mitzvah. I also heard that some folks were already teaming up with friends to share in the process of learning and to follow the model established by our quartet of celebrants. Conversations flowed about how inspiring it was to hear about the life journeys that their friends had traveled. How rare it is to learn something about the inner depth of life experiences that have brought each of us to share life at TBI. How rare it is for any of us to consider our own spiritual autobiography let alone to share its outline in community.

Along with Rabbi Maurice, Nina and others, I am hoping to find ways to cultivate an environment at TBI in which we have opportunities to enrich our relationships by learning more deeply about each others lives. As well as formulating a program for adult B’nai Mitzvah, we are also hoping to introduce a Friday evening speaker’s series, borrowing its name from a program at Havurah Shalom in Portland called “This Jewish American Life.” The series will feature members of our congregation sharing their spiritual autobiographies and giving all of us a chance to marvel at the Mystery unfolding in each of our lives.

As we live the day to day of our lives, we can so easily forget the wonder of it all. What were the critical turning points and insights that brought us to where we are on our journeys? Is there some valuable wisdom gained along the way that may be of help to others?

While a congregation is an organization, it is in its deeper essence a community of people, a gathering of life stories. The way we value the community very much depends on the degree to which we know and value one another and the stories that are our lives.