Bring Your Gifts to the Temple

Rabbi Sarah’s Shavuot Message

May 2013/Sivan 5773

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Where has the year gone?  It seems like it was just the High Holy Days, and now, we are nearing the end of the period of counting the Omer (a measure of barley), the seven weeks between Passover and Shavuot. Our ancestors took an Omer to the Temple on the second day of Passover as a thanksgiving offering for the spring harvest and continued to do so for the next seven weeks. While it’s not time for harvesting our crops yet here in the Northwest, at last, the days are lengthening, the temperatures are warming, and the rains are not falling with quite the same degree of regularity.

Our year so far has included many highlights.We held a wonderful High Tea/Adult Education evening back in the fall. Rabbi Mark Glickman of Congregation Kol Shalom showcased the Cairo Geniza with his great multi-media presentation. We also hosted some of our church neighbors at a highly entertaining lecture. We had a great Chanukah party (who can forget the cake Tony Balasa made, where we were all surprised when piles of Chanukah gelt spilled out of the middle of the cake once the first slice was removed?!), and we turned the entire synagogue into a pirate’s ship at Purim. Yo ho! Our Passover seder was one of the most highly attended ever-and the food couldn’t be beat. In between our holiday schedule, we held services and conducted religious school, where rich, multi-sensory learning took place-ask the kids about their recent bus trip to Massada, where they met folks like the historian Josephus and Elazar ben Yair, the head of the zealots who convinced everyone to “drink the Kool-Aid” (so to speak). Makes you want to be a kid again.

We’ve had a number of changes in our liturgical materials this year. A grant from the Jewish Federation allowed us to purchase new children’s siddurim for our religious school and new haggadot for our Passover seder geared for multi-generational seder attendees.  After many years of using a self-published siddur, we now have thirty copies of Mishkan T’filah, the beautiful new siddur of the Reform movement. These siddurim were donated by our sister synagogues, Temple B’nai Torah and Temple De Hirsh Sinai, gifts which were combined with two gifts given to me to use for the synagogue by couples I’ve married. Marilyn and Bob Mathews donated 18 copies of Mishkan T’filah for a House of Mourning-our own shiva minyan books. Our “Jewish village” has helped us to purchase high quality, contemporary liturgical materials which should serve us well this decade and, with luck, the next as well.

Shavuot once marked the end of the grain harvest, at which time the Israelites would offer two loaves of bread from the wheat harvest in thanksgiving. They would also bring bikkurim, first fruits, which were listed in Deuteronomy as the seven species which prove that Israel was a good and fertile land: wheat, barley,grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. People proudly brought these gifts to Jerusalem in processions which were more like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade than a religious ceremony. All were proud of their obligation to bring the best of what they had to the Temple to honor God and be a part of the Israelite community.

In the spirit of Shavuot, I hope that in the coming weeks, you will think about ways in which you can bring your gifts to the Temple. We are a small community, and our very small cadre of dedicated volunteers needs your help. Can you work on a one-time project like a fundraiser or an on-going committee, like facilities maintenance? Are you someone who can commit to taking photos at events and post them onto our website (our biggest marketing tool) or onto a Facebook page? Are you good at creating flyers or marketing materials or writing grants? Can you write a check to underwrite a specific need we have? We all have different talents and gifts and abilities. Sharing the workload is vital for a community which has no administrative staff to run our day-to-day operations.

We have more services and activities to look forward to in the coming months along with two special bat mitzvah services this summer. The earliest High Holy Days in my memory will have us gathering together as a community once more before we know it. As we prepare once again for the most precious gift of matan Torah, the giving of the Torah, associated with the holiday of Shavuot since the destruction of the 2nd Temple in 70 CE, let us consider how we can each help to make our holy community thrive as the year marches on.

By Rabbi Sarah Newmark
May, 2013 

Learn more about Shavuot here.