Divre Harav/Words from the Rabbi – May, 2015

Every 7 – 10 years, every cell in our body will have died off and been replaced. This means that on a cellular level, you are a completely different person – the old you has died off and been replaced. Yet, somehow, the patterns of memory that give us our identity are preserved.

On an institutional level, Congregation Ahavas Israel is the same organization it has been since 1937, when Ahavas Achim rejoined Beth Israel after having broken away 36 years earlier. As a congregation, we trace our sense of identity and our place within Grand Rapids history back to the founding of our first predecessor congregation in 1892. Some families and a few individuals have been continuous members for 80, 90, 100 years or more, but most of us came much later. The congregational body, unlike the human body, does not have a genetically influenced end of lifetime. If we care about it and put time, energy, and money into its upkeep, it can survive and thrive indefinitely. The congregation needs you who care enough about it to be members, to sustain it.

As a religious organization, the most consistent heartbeat of activity can be found in our services: shabbat, festival, and weekdays. Every Wednesday and Thursday morning, groups gather for prayer in the chapel. Perhaps this is a place where you can help sustain the congregation – can you help ensure weekly minyanim by committing yourself to morning prayer once or twice a week or twice a month?

The festival of Shavuot is approaching. We’re gathering on the first night for a program that is part social and part educational – a Tikkun Leil Shavuot study session. If you’ve never participated, perhaps this year you’ll try it out. It’s an informal gather at my home (2021 Michigan St. NE) at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 23. The Shavuot morning service the next morning reenacts the giving of Torah at Mount Sinai; the second day of the festival is both Memorial Day on the secular calendar and a day on which we recite Yizkor on the Jewish calendar. The ritual of remembering connects us personally and institutionally, as Jews and as Americans, to those who gave us our identity and to whose lives made it possible for us to live in freedom. Our two identities also intersect at the Ahavas Israel and Greenwood cemetery, where we gather twice a year to place flags on the graves of veterans. We’ll meet at Ahavas Israel Cemetery at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 17 to place flags for Memorial Day.

Shavuot makes the beginning of summer on the Jewish calendar. During the summer months, make it a point to spend a Shabbat once or twice a month (or more!) with us. Your presence will help the heart of Ahavas Israel beat more strongly.

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