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12/09/2021 03:31:00 PM

Dec9

Rabbi Ari Lucas


Between all of the busyness surrounding Hanukkah last week, a full slate of interviews for our new executive director and assistant rabbi, and having three children at home because of COVID exposures at school (thankfully everyone is okay), it’s been hard to catch a free minute to think about what I want to write to you this week. After staring at my computer screen late at night for a few hours, getting distracted, then returning to the blank page, it seems that I just don’t have anything to write.

When I was a student in Jerusalem, the rabbi of the synagogue I frequented didn’t speak every week. He was in synagogue every day, but he only gave a sermon on average once in four or five weeks. You never knew if the week you showed up was a sermon week or not. So after singing “etz hayim” at the end of the Torah service, all eyes would turn to the rabbi to see if he would ascend to the lectern. If he didn’t, the prayers would continue. But every once in a while, he would take up the pulpit and share some reflections on the weekly Torah portion. I asked him once, politely, how he decides when he would speak and when he would not and he said to me, “zeh pashut - it’s simple. When I have something to say – I speak. When I don’t – I don’t.” Perhaps we could all learn something from his example - only to speak when we actually have something to say. Historically, rabbis would only speak two times a year - the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and the Shabbat before Passover.

Hamlet bemoaned “words, words, words” expressing the meaninglessness of it all. The rabbis of Pirkei Avot taught, “say little and do much” (1:15). If talk is cheap, then e-mail and internet words are practically useless. It used to be that a letter or a phone call actually cost money and so maybe people put some thought into what they had to say.

And yet words are all we have. God created the world by speaking it into existence. When a couple makes declarations under a huppah, their relationship is transformed and sanctified. Words can hurt and words can heal.

At this point, I’m at risk of violating Mark Twain’s quip, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” So I think I should wrap up. Don’t worry. There will still be a sermon this Shabbat. There may be times when I have little to say, but our sacred tradition always has something to say.

I thought I didn’t have anything to say to you this week, but perhaps, in reality, I did.

April 19,2024 /  11 Nisan 5784