Sunday, September 19, 2010

God Talk

From Rabbi Perlman's Rosh Hashanah Morning Sermon on God.......

".....Throughout all of last year, as you know, our congregation engaged in a wonderful process of formulating a new Temple Beth Shalom vision statement. Many members of our community set about the important task of reflection, consideration, and crafting a statement that accurately articulated who we are as a congregation and what we strive to make real. The document, as it developed - along with the evolving mission statement - spoke of learning, prayer, sacred community, and tikkun olam - healing our broken world. In the spring, a draft of the proposed vision statement was introduced to our Board of temple leadership for feedback and comments. Both in substance and poetry, the leaders gathered that night affirmed the hard work that had already been done. And then, part of the way through the meeting, someone raised a hand and asked the question: "Where is the word 'God' in all of this?" Immediately people started scanning the statement. The questioner was correct. Indeed, while the text for the proposed vision had used such words as "holy," "sacred," and "covenant," the word "God" was no where to be seen."

"For some, this was not problematic at all. Those other words alluded to God, even if the statement did not mention God specifically. And this, they felt was enough. Furthermore, some commented that there are many people in our community who do not believe in God and that using such specific language might distance them from what the vision was trying to express. Others, however, respectfully disagreed - commenting that, as a temple - a House of God - we should not be apologetic and speak around the word "God" but include it."

"Sitting next to Beth, our temple President, I recall thinking that this was one of the best Board meetings in which I had ever participated. The "God Talk" was thoughtful, impassioned, personal, and respectful......And, all the while, I couldn't help but wonder at how it was that God had somehow become a kind of "third rail" topic - one that needed to be avoided - at temple."

"This morning, I would like for us to begin a conversation about God. I would like for us to thoughtfully consider what we believe - what we don't believe - why - and, perhaps most importantly, what difference it makes.......The goal, of course is not to force faith - for as we know, to be Jewish, one need not specifically believe in G-d - but rather to grow through our engaging our tradition and one another."

......."By the conclusion of the Board meeting during which the 'Great TBS God Debate' took place, it was decided that our congregation's new Vision Statement should, in fact, specifically include God.....and should do so in such a way that both honors the members of our community - and, at the same time, states that an important part of who we are is that we take our evolving understanding of God seriously."

"The specific God statement in our vision reads as follows:
'We seek a relationship with God that is personal. Living in the tradition of being Yisrael - one who wrestles with God - we cherish our diversity of belief and Jewish expression. Each of us thoughtfully searches for understanding, guidance, and inspiration from the teachings and many voices of our tradition."

Some Questions to Consider for Your Post:

  • If you had been at the Board Meeting, what would your opinion have been?
  • What are your thoughts about God? What do you believe? What don't you believe? Why?
  • What are your thoughts about the TBS Vision Statement regarding God and our community?

We look forward to seeing this community conversation develop!!

Chag Sameach!! Happy Sukkot!!