Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi
Our Sanctuary Shabbat speaker program is entering its fifth year. We have heard about 50 speakers, and while we have never had a formal description of the parameters of what constitutes a legitimate speaker, I thought I would share with you my own internal guidelines for choosing speakers.
The opportunity to speak at Ahavas Israel is open to any position which does not explicitly contradict a fundamental value of Judaism and the synagogue. This excludes a speaker on the topic of why we should serve bacon wrapped shrimp at kiddush. A speaker on an environmental topic, as long as he/she does not advocate wholesale, wanton, purposeless destruction, may agree or disagree with the proposition of human caused global warming and still remain within acceptable boundaries of Jewish values.
Jewish values rarely dictate specific policy. They instruct us not to be cruel to animals, but leave choice of whether to kill an animal for food up to us. Thus, I might have a speaker one month urging a vegetarian diet, and another month extolling the role of fur trading Jews in establishing the Jewish community of Michigan, and encouraging us to wear fur shtreimels in their honor.
I have invited Senators Stabenow and Levin, governor Granholm, Judge Steve Pestka, and Representative Ehlers to speak on a Shabbat morning (only Mr. Ehlers and Mr. Pestka accepted the invitation). I look foreword to inviting our new representative from the 3rd district after the election. I do not invite politicians actively campaigning for office.
Some speakers are Jewish and have explicitly Jewish messages. Others are not Jewish, but have Jewish messages. Still others have messages which are not specifically Jewish (such as domestic abuse) but which I believe are important messages for us to hear.
Part of being a member of a Jewish community is accepting the obligation of learning. Shabbat is our primary gathering time to study together. Whatever we have learned, whether it comes from a d’var Torah or a speaker on the topic of kayaking and faith, should both influence and be influenced by our understanding of the Torah reading and by our prayers.
We do not live in a vacuum. Our world is not defined solely by Torah. We read books, see movies, watch television, read and watch news from various sources, and interact with a variety of people in the course of an average day. The sanctuary shabbat speaker series is meant to remind us that our essential Jewish values ought to inform our decision making process.
I realize that this is a pretty lofty set of goals for a simple speaker series. So far, beginning the fifth year of the sanctuary shabbat speaker program, I have had virtually no trouble finding good speakers on interesting topics (although I acknowledge that some of you might disagree that all speakers have been good and all topics interesting!). However, I find myself increasingly in need of assistance in finding speakers and topics. Since we have no budget for the speakers, we only occasionally are able to pay a speaker. If you know of individuals that would be good speakers or topics that we should address, please share them with me.
Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi