Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi – November, 2011

I have been serving on a committee overseeing a city-wide project beginning this fall and continuing into next year called “2012: The Year of Interfaith Understanding.” I spoke about the personal and communal benefits of interfaith dialogue on Yom Kippur, referencing this project and suggesting that you take on the obligation during 2012 to read at least one serious book about a religion other than Judaism; and then read or research the questions that come up to find out how Judaism answers the same questions.  Over the course of the next year, I will have other suggestions and opportunities for participating in interfaith dialogue, learning, and worship.  One such suggestion is to participate in the annual Interfaith Thanksgiving service, this year to be held at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, November 21.  As of the deadline for the bulletin, the location had not yet been confirmed (watch your eVoice or Shabbat announcement page or call the office for location information).

Of all the American holidays, Thanksgiving is the most Jewish, and also the most explicitly religious. It has obvious roots in the Biblical festival of Sukkot; in addition, there is an offering mentioned three times in Leviticus called the todah, or Thanksgiving, offering. The religious attitude of thanksgiving is deeply rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures. How fitting that in our country, Thanksgiving has become a time for members of different faith traditions to come together and give thanks.  The city-wide Interfaith Thanksgiving service has become a meeting point for Jews, Catholics, Quakers, Protestants of various denominations, Bahai, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindu, Native American, and non-theists to meet, share texts and teaching on gratitude, and appreciate each other’s musical offerings.

If you are a regular participant in this service, I am grateful for your presence.  If you have never come to the service, I ask you to give it a try.  I think you’ll enjoy it, and by your very presence you will be making an important statement about the importance of the inclusion of all faith groups in the religious landscape of West Michigan.

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