Four years ago, almost to the date, I stood in this bima for the first time as your rabbi. Four years ago, I arrived to the UK with my wife Raya and a small 3 months old baby called Hallel. Next Sunday, 2nd of September, a different family will be going back home to Israel. It still is Raya and me, but new we do have a 4 years old little girl and a 2 years old, London born boy, called Yair. As a family we are different, as individuals we are different. I, as a rabbi, am different after these 4 years in EMS.
In one of my first sermons, I spoke to you about the difference between the two main biblical characters, the prophet and the cohen, the priest. I pointed out that the prophet was the radical idealist, who showed the way, who spoke truth to power and preached to the people. The cohen was the pastor, the servant of the people, the one who helped people with their life-events or when they felt guilty and sinful. The cohen worked on the day-to-day needs of the people and he was loved. The prophet was the visionary that marked the way and many times he was not appreciated by the people.
I hope that during these 4 years I was a cohen for you, that I helped those of you who needed my help, that I was there for your simchas and your sad moments. I performed many lifecycle events and I tried to teach some Torah to those willing to listen. I am sure I was not there for some of you when you needed me and for that, in the spirit of the month of Elul, I apologise and hope you can forgive me.
I hope that during these 4 years I was also a little bit of a prophet, that I managed to inspire you at times or make you think. Maybe I gave you a different point of view to consider. I am sure you didn’t always agree with my points of view, indeed some of you weren’t shy to let me know so, but I thank you for respecting and listening what I had to say.
Almost 3 years ago we had an induction for myself, a very nice event with the presence of the Barnet Mayor, authorities from Masorti Judaism and other faith communities in Edgware, and of course many of you. At the time I spoke of three loves that make a community: A love of God, translated in love for His Torah, of Creation, a feeling of gratitude for life. And the fact that many Masorti Jews don’t believe the Torah came straight from Heaven, doesn’t diminish it as Divine in any measure, as Rabbi Louis Jacobs taught us: “We hear the authentic voice of God speaking to us through the pages of the Bible […] and its message is in no way affected in that we can only hear that voice through the medium of human beings”.
A love of our neighbour, meaning, a love of each other. From loving our families to loving our other communities, including this community we are members of, Edgware Masorti.
A love of the stranger, not less important, this is about the larger community of Edgware and beyond, where we must be active members, bringing our specific views as Masorti Jews to the rainbow of faiths and communities in our neighbourhood and our city.
I also spoke of the three “P’s” of things you can do as members of EMS for your rabbi. Prayer, asking God to help your leadership, rabbinical, voluntary and professional; to lead the Shul in the correct path, in succeeding in making EMS even better.
Patience. Second P. Remembering that change takes time, that we rabbis are flawed people, who honestly do our best, but still can’t always do things the way you would like, or in the time frame you would desire. Make your views known and as in every relationship, communication is the key.
Participation. Third. Come to Shul. Come for services, come for social events, come to study. Without you, this is just a building, not a community. Everything we did in the Shul, everything we do, we do it for your sake. Everything Raya did as Head of Education she did it for your children and grandchildren. Nothing has any meaning if you don’t attend.
And still, let’s say something about the Parashah. Parashat “Ki Tetze” means “when you leave”. No, it was not planned in advance. Next week’s Parashah, “Ki Tavo”, means “when you come”. And we are, we are leaving London and coming home.
Nevertheless, the full sentence is “When you leave for war against your enemies”. And even if I might be called back to serve in the IDF in reserve duty, I am not taking this verse literally. Some commentators point out that even if the context of this first verse is war, it is actually about a moral issue and not about combat. The Parashah starts with the laws about the “beautiful captive”, if a soldier desires one of the women of the enemy and the process that has to happen for him to be able to take her as a wife. Therefore, these commentators say that the “enemies” of this verse are actually our evil inclinations, our temptations, those things that are an obstacle for our development as human beings. That’s the war we must fight!
In this month of Elul, when we are preparing for the High Holidays, we will do well to identify who are these enemies for us. Our pride? Our bad habits? Our lack of communication? And let’s go to war against them! Let’s defeat them and become better versions of ourselves this next year.
This is my last sermon in EMS. Even if we will still be around next Shabbat if somebody wants to give us a final goodbye, next Shabbat this will be Rabbi Alpert’s pulpit and I expect to have the pleasure of listening to his first sermon. I take advantage of the opportunity to wish him all the best, success and achievements on his new position. I will be observing from afar, but always available for a chat if needed.
And this is it my friends! Thank you so much for 4 wonderful years. Thank you to the different leaders of the Shul that worked with us and trusted us during this time, I see many of you today. Thank you to those who participated and helped us in so many ways. We are taking EMS with us in our heart.
We wish you Shanah Tovah, a good new year and maybe Next Year in Jerusalem, or Be’er Sheva, who knows?