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A Message from Rabbi Steven Schwartzman

Rabbi Steven Schwarrzman

New Beginnings

As I write my first column for Beth Shalom's monthly bulletin, I'm struck by the warmth of the Beth Shalom community. Bettina and I are really delighted to be here, and I look forward to learning, praying, and growing with you as your rabbi for many years to come. We enjoyed seeing so many of you at our hanukkat bayit, where we put up the mezuzah on our new home (and if you are the owner of a Chicago Bears jacket wondering where you left it, you can reclaim it from us). And, whether or not you were able to join us that evening, we will be inviting each of you to join us for a Shabbat or holiday meal. (Just give us time to get to everyone!)

We enter the Hebrew month of Av, notably marked on the calendar by Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the month, marking the anniversary of the destruction of the first and second Temples, respectively in 586 BCE and 70 CE. The destruction of the Temples more than six centuries apart is what we usually focus on, but while the Temple was central to Jewish life in the Land of Israel, I think no less a change was the loss of independence as a people. Perhaps this was even the greater change, because much of what we continue to do as Jews, especially in our prayers, really reflects back to the ancient services in the Temple.

Those of us born before 1948 have lived in an era when there was no Israel; those of us born after then have not. And the miracle of Israel's rebirth is, I think, of theological significance. We live in an era the likes of which Jews did not see for close to 2,000 years: the opportunity to live in a sovereign Jewish state, with all the wonderful and natural benefits and responsibilities that entails. So our awareness of Jewish history on the ninth of Av should be balanced with the joy of modern Israel, and the rebuilding of our people and our independence.

Here in Edmonton, in the short time that I've been here, there have been of course trips to the cemetery. But there have also been conversations with parents of new babies, and bar mitzvah families, and conversations with the good members of this community. In our own lives, as well as in the lives of our people, there have been times of great sadness. But there have also been, and there will be, great joys as well.

Let's get to know each other so we can build good things together. Please drop me a line or give me a call so that we can find a time to sit down and chat. Let's get started on creating new beginnings.


Rabbi Steven Schwarzman



Sat, 17 August 2019 16 Av 5779