These past few days, the entire country has been riveted by the fate of the passengers on the Titan. The Titan was what is known as a submersible, a submarine-type vehicle that was able to travel all the way down to the depths of the ocean. The travelers, each of whom paid $250,000, were on a journey to explore the ruins of the Titanic. Tragically, it appears that the Titan imploded two hours into their journey. (Parenthetically, when five human beings die, regardless of their politics, regardless of their net worth, it is a tragedy. In this day and age, there are people celebrating their death which is obscene.)
Let me ask you all a question – there has been a lot of discussion of safety concerns on the Titan, but let’s just say, those concerns are addressed, and the company that runs these tours, OceanGate, goes through a proper safety audit, and they are now open again to the public. Would you take a tour on a submersible? Let’s ask our Bar Mitzvah boy, Ben, would you go down to the bottom of the ocean on the Titan 2?
It costs $250,000 for a ticket. Ben is going to need a lot of money. So please think twice, ladies and gentlemen, before writing him a check for his Bar Mitzvah.
When I was your age, Ben, I probably would have. When I was a little older than you, I had a bucket list of crazy things I wanted to do; bungee jumping, skydiving, backpacking around foreign countries. To my parents’ utmost horror and dismay, I knocked everything off that bucket list. Though for the record, I would NEVER dream of jumping out of a plane at this age. I don’t know when, but something switched in my brain and now I go on the ski lift ride around Dutch Wonderland, we’re like twenty feet off the ground, and I am freaking out: WHY ARE WE RISKING OUR LIVES?!?!
What drives people to jump out of planes, to climb tall mountains, to go to the depths of the ocean?
Ambition, drive, a sense of purpose and the very human desire to break free from the stifling regularity and monotony of life. In the words of one man who was asked why he attempted to climb Mt. Everest – “Because it’s there.”
Ambition is not a bad thing, nor is it limited to extreme activities. If we didn’t have ambition, we wouldn’t show up to work. If we didn’t have ambition, we would never push ourselves to be better at what we do. If we didn’t have ambition, we wouldn’t have retirement funds. The Medrash Tehilim (37) writes that without ambition people would not get married or build a home. It’s what keeps the world going, it’s what drives us forward. Sometimes it’s expressed in silly things like extreme activities, and sometimes it’s expressed in life-saving discoveries and companies that make our lives so much better.
In fact, Wendy Rush, the wife of Stockton Rush, the CEO of OceanGate who tragically died this past week, is the great-great-granddaughter of Isidor Straus, a co-owner of Macy’s, the famous department store. Isidor was an incredibly ambitious person. He came to the United States at the age of 9. His family was discriminated against because of their Jewish faith; the business his father had hoped to start failed. But by the age of 16, Isidor had started a successful business that grew and grew until he became one of the wealthiest and most politically connected people in the country. Thank G-d for Isidor Straus’s ambition – how many pieces of clothing have you purchased at Macy’s? Half the ties I own I bought at Macy’s! And clearly, his ambition was passed on from generation to generation. His great-great-granddaughter, aside from growing her family’s wealth, had gone on three expeditions in the Titan.
However, sometimes I fear that we are stifling ambition. I was watching a video from a graduation speech in a Jewish school the other day, and the principal was calling up a student to speak on behalf of all the students. “Every student is special,” she said. “Every student could have been called up to speak, but we had to pick one. So I am calling up this person even though I could have called up anyone. And you know I would really love to call up each student because they are all so deserving…” When I was graduating high school, the principal got up and said, “We are now calling up our valedictorian, our brightest, most impressive student who we believe will accomplish great things.” The rest of us understood the implication quite clearly.
This sentiment of everyone is special was actually the argument made by Korach in this week’s parsha. Korach led a rebellion against Moshe with a slogan that would be incredibly popular in the 21st century – “Kol ha’am kulam kedoshim/ The entire nation is holy! Why do you, Moshe, stand above us all? Aren’t we all the same? Aren’t we all holy?” That resonates, doesn’t it?
Rav Yosef Soloveitchik explains that Korach was right – to a point. We are all innately holy, we are born with a pure soul which we believe to be connected to G-d Himself. But that’s only part of the story. We are then instructed to build on that holiness, to use that soul to transform ourselves, and change the world around us. What Korach was arguing for was the notion that whatever you do is okay, whatever you accomplish is enough. You’re all special, you’re all equally holy.
Ironically, Korach, we are taught was exceptionally wealthy. When it comes to our professional life, I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “You know, I started as a temp getting minimum wages. This is who I am. I’m okay with that.”
No! We have ambitions. We want to climb that ladder. We want more. And that’s fine and that’s great. But where are our spiritual ambitions? Why is it that when it comes to giving more to others, to being a better spouse or parent, how we pray, how much Torah we study, that only there do we seem to be content with what we have, with the inherent holiness that we were born with? When it comes to spirituality, ambition goes out the window.
We need to have BOTH material AND spiritual ambitions! Isadore Straus wasn’t only a business mogul, he and his brother, Nathan, who co-owned Macy’s were two of the most generous people of their generation, giving to a wide variety of causes, in their community and beyond. The city of Netanya in Israel was seeded by Nathan Straus and is named after him – Nentanya from the name, Nathan. And perhaps most famously – Isadore was on the Titanic with his wife when it started to sink. According to eyewitnesses, Isadore, because of his incredible stature was given a seat on a raft which was being filled up by women and children. He refused to get on the raft because he would be taking a seat from a woman or a child, who he felt should go before him. Seeing what was happening, his wife, Ida, got up and left the raft to be with her husband. “Wherever you go,” she said, “I go.” In the movie Titanic, there is a scene in which an elderly man and woman are embracing one another as the ship goes down. That was as a nod to Isadore and Ida Straus who died on the Titanic. That is high level selflessness, dedication, love, that’s called not settling for mediocrity.
We probably all have a detailed list of where we want to vacation, of an exact number of how much we want to retire with, but does anyone have a spiritual bucket list? Not just a vague idea of wanting to be a good person. I’m talking about an ambitious and detailed list of spiritual ambitions. I want to be the type of spouse who is so selfless that I will not get off a sinking ship without my loved one – not just in the Titanic, but every day in my home. I want to be a non-judgmental friend. I want to be a parent who is 100% engaged. I want to pray like my soul is on fire and I am standing before G-d. I want to use my strengths and resources to build the community around me. I want to finish shas, I want to know the entirety of Tanach.
Ben, you are an ambitious young man. You were gifted natural athleticism, but you worked hard to become an even better athlete. You are not content with being just okay. And it’s not just in the physical realm that you are ambitious. Ben was not content with leining this morning – which you knocked out of the park, he wanted to do more, so last night, he led davening in our shul. And that wasn’t enough so he asked if he could lead davening on the day he turned Bar Mitzvah, which he did. But that wasn’t enough, so he asked if he could lein in shul on Thursday, which he did. And learning for his Bar Mitzvah and school wasn’t enough, so he spent time weekly learning Mishnayos. Ben, don’t ever allow your spiritual thirst to be quenched.
You’re lucky, you have wonderful role models of spiritual ambition. They put so much thought into your education and your spiritual well-being. They are ambitious in their middos, in their character and in their love of family. Had your parents been on the Titanic, it would have been them embracing one another with selflessness.
Ben, you’re young, you’re full of energy. Now’s the time to create a spiritual bucket list, and I hope to G-d, you knock everything off that list and then you start a new one and then do that again and again and again. And I hope you inspire us to strive a little but higher, to ask ourselves this morning, what are our spiritual ambitions? What is on our spiritual bucket list? And not be content with spiritual mediocrity.
Isadore Straus sank on the mighty Titanic. His great-great-grandson-in-law’s company will probably never set sail again. Macy’s will likely not be around in ten years. It is only our soul, our spiritual ambitions and accomplishments, that will live on.
In 1873, Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan published a book that would become revolutionary. The topic of the book was gossip and slander, two aveiros, two Biblical sins, that had effectively been ignored for hundreds if not thousands of years. Of course, people knew such a prohibition existed, but it was so difficult to abide by that for all intents and purposes, the Mitzvah of proper speech had become extinct. The book, known as Chafeitz Chaim, organized all the laws that pertained to speech, breaking down the details of what a person can and cannot say. In addition, he wrote an entire philosophical section where he laid out the value of using our mouths for good and the danger of using our mouths for evil.
Ultimately, Rabbi Kagan became synonymous with this book, and he is known to us as the Chafeitz Chaim. He was the leading Torah sage of his generation, he wrote countless books including the Mishna Berura, a wildly popular commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, but it was this book that became his legacy. I believe this was because of its revolutionary impact. Thanks to his work, while you and I may still gossip from time to time, we do so with a sense of guilt. We know it’s wrong. Rabbi Kagan literally saved a Mitzvah from extinction.
In 1940, a young Austrian refugee by the name of Yosef Rosenberger arrived in the US. He came to the country with nothing, he lived in a home for immigrants. His father had been in the clothing industry, so he was especially attuned to what people wear. He noticed that in the US nobody seemed to be aware of the Biblical prohibition of wearing fabric that is made of wool and linen, otherwise known as shatnez. The prohibition of shatnez was extinct in the US.
Within a year of arriving at Ellis Island, he developed a simple chemical test that could be used to ascertain if a piece of clothing was made of wool and linen. He used space in the offices of the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel, where he would test people’s clothing for shatnez. He would do the testing at night. During the day, he would create PR material on the importance of shatnez and had it published in all the leading Jewish periodicals. Yosef Rosenberger saved the mitzvah of shatnez from extinction.
This morning, I’d like to mention a mitzvah that I believe is also on the verge of extinction, at least in our circles, what some may call Modern Orthodoxy. I am hopeful that someone here may be the revolutionary to save this mitzvah from extinction.
I go to New York City from time to time and travel on the subway. Like most people my age, I usually spend my time on the subway with my phone in my hand, oblivious to my surroundings. This time, the individual I was traveling with asked me if I noticed the ads in the subway. I did not – though that was probably a function of my height. I looked up and looked around and noticed that the entire subway was decked in ads for Tinder.
For those who do not know what Tinder is (G-d bless you), Tinder is a dating app that is known for its swipe right or swipe left feature. A picture of a potential match shows up on your screen and you decide if you like them or not with the flick of your finger. The thing is, it’s not really a dating app; it’s what is known as a… people getting together more casually app… The entire subway was filled with every sexual innuendo possible. I recalled that the month before the entire subway was covered with a different set of ads, this time for lingerie – innuendo was out the window.
In this week’s parsha we are introduced to a mitzvah, a prohibition against gazing or thinking about matters of sexuality outside the context of marriage. Lo sasuru acharei l’vavchem v’acharei eineichem, do not stray after your hearts and eyes. Why? The Torah does not tell us why but we could surmise the following:
Intimacy is described by Nachmanides (Iggeres HaKodesh) as “kodesh kodashim, holy of holies.” Let’s think about the Holy of Holies that existed in the Bais Hamikdash to better understand the imagery Ramban is trying to paint for us. The Holy of Holies was special and sacred – the most sacred place in Judaism; intimacy must therefore also be sacred. The Holy of Holies was partitioned away, only entered once a year, and even then only by the Kohein Gadol. The limitations enhanced its charm and uniqueness. Similarly, intimacy in particular and sexuality in general must therefore be limited, not because it’s dirty, but in order to enhance its beauty, its magic and uniqueness. My favorite part of Shabbos morning here in shul is watching the children run up to the Aron when it’s opened. They know it’s special because we hide it away for 95% of davening. Similarly, due to the potency and power of intimacy, the incredible force that can bring absolute union between a husband and wife, the Torah creates a set of restrictions in order to maintain and enhance its sacred mystique.
Unfortunately, many of our co-religionists paint a very dirty and negative picture of sexuality. To their credit, in many circles this mitzvah is not even close to extinction, on the contrary, it has become the most important mitzvah of all. One’s exposure to anything sexual is the litmus test of spirituality.
However, in their zeal, sexuality is too often not described as kodesh, holy, it’s described as shmutz, as something dirty and corrosive. Even worse, the way sexuality is discussed too often denigrates women and it is women who are often the casualties of this approach. This mindset is the driving force behind a number of Orthodox publications going ahead and removing women’s images from their magazines, leaving young girls most especially second-guessing their worth. The other casualties of such an approach are those who are left thinking that intimacy is a necessary evil, instead a gift from G-d to bring closeness to a husband and wife. That is a Christian approach, not the way of the Torah. (To be fair, an ascetic tradition exists in Judaism, but for much of our history it was not a mainstream view.)
And so, our community is stuck between two unhealthy approaches. We don’t want to make purity the most defining mitzvah, we don’t want to rail against sexuality at every turn and describe it as evil. (Personally, I get extremely uncomfortable when someone obsessively talks about this prohibition. My ‘he doth protest too much’-alarm bells go off very quickly.) But instead, we say nothing. Instead, we allow this prohibition, which we repeat as part of Shema twice a day, to teeter on the verge of extinction. All we are left with in our circles is the societal default of subway cars filled with ads for Tinder and lingerie.
Our community, as scrupulous as we may be with other mitzvos – we don’t think twice about the content available on our phones, on our screens, all around us. We forget that there is a value in restraint, in looking away, in shifting our thoughts. We begin to think, like so many in our culture think and those Tinder ads imply, that intimacy is just an enjoyable act divorced from any meaning. We begin to believe that intimacy can be divorced from a relationship and from commitment. We forget why it was called intimacy to begin with!
We are left consuming whatever shows up on our screen; we’re left consuming whatever lyrics our favorite musician sings about. And our relationship with that that is holy, sacred, magical, is severed as this beautiful mitzvah of lo sasuru, to not blindly following our eyes and hearts, slowly becomes extinct.
A young woman in our community, Bracha Poliakoff recently co-authored a book on tznius, what some loosely describe as modesty, called Reclaiming Dignity. Tznius is a close sibling to the mitzvah we are discussing this morning. Tznius is more about our expression, lo sasuru about our consumption. Her book has flown off the bookshelves because she and her co-author were able to find a language that delicately expresses the importance and beauty of that mitzvah.
How beautiful would it be if someone could pick up where Bracha Poliakoff left off. A revolutionary like the Chafetz Chaim or Yosef Rosenberger who could save this mitzvah from extinction, by compellingly describing the value and majesty of self-restraint to those of us who live in a society that so elevates consumption. Someone who will have no studies to draw upon – there are no studies on the impact of our hyper-sexualized society because there is no control group in existence – someone who won’t talk about the impact on one’s mind, but rather the impact on one’s soul. Someone who could soberly develop best practices for filter usage on our devices and on our minds. How beautiful would it be for someone in the modern world to save this mitzvah from extinction.
I shared with some of you in the past about a walk I had years ago with a man who lived in the heart of Meah Shearim. I ate at his home in Meah Shearim on Friday night, and he was walking me back to my hotel. His neighborhood shuts down completely on Shabbos, but my hotel was in an area where cars were driving by. Every time a car would drive by, I’d hear him whispering. I eventually asked him what he was doing, and he explained to me that he’s accustomed to a car-free street on Shabbos; he’s accustomed to the sanctity of Shabbos permeating his whole neighborhood. When he walks beyond his neighborhood, it’s distressing. It chips away at his sensitivity. Now there are some people in his community who throw rocks at these cars. They are likely violating even more prohibitions than those driving. “But for me,” he said, “in order to not become completely desensitized, whenever I see a car, I whisper to myself the words, “Shabbos, Shabbos, Shabbos.””
Until we find that revolutionary who saves this mitzvah from extinction, the man or woman who takes up a pen or keyboard to give us the language we so desperately need, until we recreate our world in a way that reflects our divine value system, until that time, we too can whisper, “Holy, holy, holy.” We can whisper by turning away, by changing the channel, by adding a filter, by closing our ears. In doing so, we will allow the beauty and magic of intimacy, and the beauty and magic of our precious souls shine bright once more.
Much thanks to Dr. Leslie Klein for reviewing this drasha and for her insights
10 Years of Service
Good Shabbos!! Thank you to Rabbi Moshe Shur and Cantor Yaakov Motzen for leading us in beautiful services this morning. And thank you to our gabbaim and Jay Bernstein and Rabbi Motzen for leining the parsha and haftorah. I would also like to recognize Rabbi Binyamin Marwick of Shomrei Emunah, who will be delivering some Divrei Torah following my address as well as recognize the volunteer leadership of our shul, past and present. In your programs you may have noticed the names of our former presidents and chairs who received honors during the Torah service, but I would be remiss if I did not also equally recognize Gabby Burger, a former chair of the Board of Directors who is here today.
I wanted to welcome you all here for a very special Shabbos in which we celebrate the Motzens on their ten year anniversary at the helm of the Ner Tamid Congregation. Can you believe it – 10 years since we welcomed the Motzens into the Ner Tamid family. And, while Ner Tamid is a very loving and beautiful family, it is also likely the most difficult family in Baltimore in which to serve as Rabbi and Rebbetzin. Notwithstanding the difficulty of the gig, the Motzens chose us and we, in turn, chose them. And, I am proud to say, what a wonderful marriage it has been.
As President of the Congregation a/k/a “the guy who sits next to the Rabbi”, I have had a front row seat to observing the challenges and responsibilities that the Motzens undertook. Being a pulpit Rabbi is hard, but in this special place, it’s a whole different madreyga. The Motzens have embraced the diversity of our shul and with incredible alacrity, sensitivity, dedication to inclusivity, and sheer talent, they have strengthened the bonds of our kehilla in all of its wonderful flavors.
Early on in the Motzens’ tenure, Ner Tamid was branded as “Something for Everyone.” We truly are. We are made up of Jews from every walk of life. We are a big tent. Observant, secular, and somewhere in between. Young and old. Those with means and those who are struggling. Jews from birth and those who have made the choice to become Jewish. Liberal and conservative. Vegetarians and meat eaters. You get the point. And, the Motzens, to their incredible credit, respect the vast diversity that exists within our shul and have chosen to live up to and embrace the “Something for Everyone” motto. It’s a tall challenge, but it was successfully met by them with incredible aplomb. They were and are the perfect captains for our ship. It would have been far easier to stake out a clear path and build-up a membership base of homogeneous thought, practice and ideology. But, the Motzens truly joined our unique family and have been able to successfully serve all of its members.
Orthodoxy in a modern and ever-changing world presents difficult challenges; however, the Motzens do not shy away from the challenge of making Judaism accessible and relevant to every person in this room. Whether it is the beautiful and inspiring sermons on Shabbos and Yom Tov that captivate us all in making ancient text relatable to the circumstances of today; or, whether it is the many classes offered by the Rabbi including the Semichas Chaver Program; or, whether it is the special programming for women such as the Rebbetzin’s tehillim group, the Divrei Torah offered for women and by women on Simchas Torah, and the Rabbi’s weekly halacha classes for women; or, whether it is the excellent youth programming that provides Jewish instruction to our children that affords the opportunity for all parents to attend services; or, whether it is the social events and programs that cater to all age groups and between our various generations. It is plainly clear to all that our Rabbi and Rebbetzin have created many unique opportunities for our members to participate in all facets of Jewish life and grow as Jews and as human beings.
The Motzens have been instrumental and phenomenal in facilitating connections; helping to bridge differences between groups of people. The “Ner Tamid meets Ner Tamid” programs spearheaded by the Motzens were wildly successful and fun; illustrating the shared commonalities of those who make up our kehilla across the age spectrum. It really is only in this community that I have experienced real friendships with members of the greatest generation, baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials; and, I know that we owe that in large part to the tireless efforts of the Motzens (and, now don’t tell the Rabbi, but perhaps to a lesser extent the Kiddush Club).
Growth is a key theme of our last ten years with the Motzens. Under their tenure we have dramatically increased our young family membership, the lifeblood and future of our shul. Walk down the hallway of the school wing and you will see that on every Shabbos and Yom Tov our youth groups are teaming with dozens of children who are excited to come to shul. Beyond numbers growth, the Motzens encourage and support the personal growth of every member.
While the Motzens have helped Ner Tamid grow, we have, in turn, watched them grow as well. The Rabbi was just a boychick when he got here and look at him now! The beard has really come in quite nicely. We have watched their beautiful family grow over these years and shared in their simchas as a family. In short, upon arrival, the Rabbi and Rebbetzin learned what our community needed and tailored their leadership to who was here already while also seeking to broaden the appeal of our wonderful shul to those who had yet to find a spiritual home. With incredible wisdom beyond their years, the Motzens demonstrated great patience and respect for the kehilla that preceded their arrival, seeking to understand the Ner Tamid Congregation and what made it tick before suggesting changes to reinvigorate our shul and its place in the Baltimore Jewish Community, thus allowing the shul’s growth and change to be organic rather than a forced exercise.
On this Shabbos, we celebrate ourselves and our growth with the Motzens. We deserve it and the Motzens deserve the recognition and credit for what has been achieved over the last decade. So, following this ceremony, everybody is invited to celebrate in our Social Hall with a magnificent kiddush that has been catered by Simcha Gross and O’Fishel’s Kosher Catering Company. And, may our excitement and celebration today carry into tomorrow for what I am confident will be a very successful campaign for the shul!!
Before I turn the program over to Rabbi Marwick, I wanted to express our collective gratitude to the Motzen family and how giving and selfless they have been for our community these last ten years. Adam Klaff, the shul’s previous Chair of ten years, told our Congregation that he regarded his greatest accomplishment as Chair was extending the Rabbi’s contract for an additional ten years. Here’s to the next ten years, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Motzen!! Mazel Tov!!
I feel incredibly fortunate to have regular, meaningful conversations with both the Rabbi and Rebbitzen. The frequency of our conversations sometimes surpasses the amount of time I spend speaking with my wife. But these opportunities to engage with the Rabbi and Rebbitzen on a daily basis, and sometimes even multiple times a day, is a true privilege. FYI speaking with the Rabbi daily is just one of the many perks that come with being the chairperson.
Being involved in the leadership of our shul has shown me how much the Rabbi and Rebitzen do behind the scenes. This role has provided me with a profound appreciation for the immense energy and dedication they pour into our shared spiritual home we call Ner Tamid. Witnessing their commitment firsthand has deepened my appreciation and understanding of the incredible work they do and how much they are giving of themselves.
In the weeks leading up to campaign day, I have been reaching out to former Chairpersons, shul members, and community members to gather matchers in support of Ner Tamid and this campaign. As I explain the purpose of my call, I can sense the genuine happiness in the voices of those on the other end. They eagerly share stories about how the Rebbetzin has personally helped them navigate challenging issues or served as their trusted resource for matters of marital purity. Some of these individuals I spoke with don’t attend our shul but call on the Rebbetzin in times of need and by the way, thank you for the $1000 donation.
The Rebbetzin has become a force and address for many women’s issues in our community. The Rebbitzen is the go-to on child abuse prevention, leading the charge across the community providing education and resources from Beth El to the Chassidish Stiebel. These conversations with many members of our community have truly opened my eyes to the extensive role the Rebbetzin plays and the multitude of ways she supports our shul and the broader Baltimore community. Her efforts are discreet, known only to those who need to know, the Rebbetzin delicately handles sensitive matters while preserving people’s dignity and modesty.
In recent months, the Rebbitzen has taken on an additional responsibility as the interim youth director. Witnessing the profound impact she has on the children of our shul has been inspiring. Her presence brings palpable joy that resonates throughout the halls. I am particularly looking forward to future youth events. I’ve even heard that the Rebbitzen enjoys snowboarding in her spare time!
Rabbi, when you initially asked me if I would consider being the president of the shul, I had my reservations. My wife was seven months pregnant, COVID was rampant, and the shul was partially closed, the montessori was fully closed. It was a time of uncertainty. I pondered the decision for a few days, discussed it with my wife, and eventually said yes. Looking back, I’m grateful that I took on the role. As my term as president progressed and things began to stabilize, you and Adam approached me again, asking if I would be interested in becoming the chairperson. I deliberated for a few more days, but eventually, I said yes once again.
However, I couldn’t help but wonder why you specifically wanted me to be the chairman of the shul. Last week, it finally dawned on me. You have been planning this event for the past ten years, and the thought of having a chairperson who is older than you after being here for a decade didn’t sit well with you. So, here we are.
As I continued to speak with individuals around the campaign, Making these calls made me realize that many of these individuals may not regularly attend Ner Tamid, and some of them have never set foot in our building. Yet, when I spoke to them, I could hear the impact you have had on their lives. Rabbi your influence extends far beyond the walls of our shul.
Wishing you, Rabbi and Rebbitzen and the entire Ner Tamid community another decade of growth!
I’d like to begin by thanking my husband, without whom I would not be here…Literally, there is no way in the world I would ever have agreed to do THIS if not for him, so Thank you honey 😉
But I guess once every 10 years I can handle getting up here. 10 years, wow! We know that 10 is a very significant number in Judaism, it’s said that G-d created the world with 10 utterances, B’asarah Maamaros Nivrah Ha’Olam. With each of those 10 sayings, a new layer of nature was created and in doing so the presence of Hashem became more and more concealed in this world. The Chidushei Harim, the chassidic Rebbe of Ger, explains that when the Jewish People were redeemed through the 10 plagues and accepted the 10 commandments, G-d’s presence re-revealed into the world.
I believe that this is emblematic of what we have been doing together these past 10 years. 10 years of growth. We have been growing together, not just in numbers but in who we are, and in doing so we have brought more G-dliness into this world. Together, we have increased our Torah Learning, we have enhanced our mitzvah observance, and become a place where every kind of Jew feels comfortable and cared for. Our acceptance of Ol malchus shamayim over these years that has re-revealed more of Hashem’s presence in this world.
On a more personal note, being in a position like this has propelled me to strive to be the very best version of myself. Being here has been a guiding light, a personal Ner Tamid, shining a light on my Avodas Hashem on pushing me to grow. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to grow alongside all of you.
I would like to conclude, by thanking all of you. Thank you for the privilege of journeying through life with you these past 10 years. We have cried together and we have laughed together, we have mourned together and we have celebrated together, but I think most importantly we’ve grown together. My Bracha to all of us, is that the next 10 years bring us to even greater heights in our spirituality, personal growth, and ultimately in bringing more G-dlinees into this world.