From the Rabbi’s Desk

I'm approached over and over by people who believe they have not done the right thing. They believe they haven't done enough, or believe they have chosen the wrong avenue, or believe they started something and left it at the wrong time, or took a completely wrong turn.
It is the human condition.
From the time we’re born there are people bigger, smarter, richer, more gifted. Rather than learn who we are and who we might be, we begin to measure ourselves against others who arrived before us. The neglected irony is that those we look up to have their own set of “others” against whom they measure themselves. I like to get perspective from our Jewish wisdom - a trove developed over thirty-five hundred years. Our communal diary, the Torah, opens with a Universal Force creating a world in categories - and declaring each day’s creation to be satisfactory and in order. As the Midrash tells us, by the tenth hour of the sixth day (mankind’s first day on Earth) rules are broken and banishment from the perfect Garden ensues. If G-d were showing up for counseling, so to speak, He might tell His coach that His first set of creations did not work out, and that He is not enough.
But the Torah does not proceed that way, and neither should our lives. A project which needs adjusting simply points the way to a newer, better project or a different way to proceed. Adam and Eve adjust to their new world, have
children and beget an entire civilization. Their children don't get along but the remaining child goes off and lives in and builds up a town. Unrealised by most people, many years later Adam and Eve have a third child, Seth, a begetting which is a vote for new hope and trying again. And so it goes. Our G-d models a perfection which includes mistakes, includes tweaks, includes re-directing, new plans and new approaches. And most important,
includes continuing and evolving, accepting the good in what is, and creating the next chapter.
And so may we all.
 
Rabbi Mark Biller

 

To our Temple Gates of Prayer Community:
 
Since last Saturday we have experienced and watched and listened to news which has been unsettling in its immediacy, and which for Jews has triggered our national group consciousness and memory.
 
We have always been a people of highest values and have also been a people removed from countries, discriminated against and attacked repeatedly. Every bullet in Pittsburgh touched every one of these nerves in us.
 
At such moments we ask all the deep questions; Where is God? How can mankind act like this? Is there anywhere that is safe for us? How could this happen in a House of Worship, on a Shabbat? These questions intersect with issues of contemporary politics, gun ownership, urban violence and historic memory.
 
As your Rabbi, and I know I speak for our Executive Board and Board members, we condemn in the strongest terms the hatred and measuring of any ‘kind’ of human being against  any other ‘ kind’ of human being. Our Torah and the Constitution of the United States of America frame the highest regard for the dignity of every human being. The horrendous act last Saturday shattered these aspirations and should be repugnant to all.   
 
As I have written to you in several pieces I sent out during the week, an outpouring of concern and sympathy and compassion has come from people all over the world, and from many religious groups.
 
I have received personal notes from Germany, Canada, New York, New Jersey, Florida and Georgia. Telephone calls, letters and emails have been sent to me by Baptists, Episcopalians, Catholics, Sikhs and Mormons. These responses have been heartwarming in the face of the shock and disappointment of last Shabbat’s events.
 
I know members of Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. Three friends of mine are rabbis in Pittsburgh who are preparing funerals and eulogies, and attending to the extended families involved. As Jews, when something happens to one, it happens to us all. Pittsburgh has been intensely personal for our community.
 
Our Board and Executive are looking at issues of security, both physical and emotional, and ways to move ahead as a strong, rooted Jewish community.
 
If there is one thing Jewish people are - and the proof is in our existence -  it is resilient. We have no illusions about the nature of reality, yet continually reach for the next vision which will help us survive, and survive grandly.
 
The #Fill The Seats campaign has been announced asking Jews to attend services. Our presence in our Houses of Worship is the retort to those who would prefer us not to exist. It is a proclamation  that we are not - nor will we be - cowed by evil and evil's intent.
 
Living fully, raising the bar on our rich Jewish heritage and showing up is the answer to a threat.
 
Am Yisrael Chai. - the Jewish people lives.”
Live boldly, be present, whole, vibrant and defiant.
 
Rabbi Mark Biller