AGUDAS ISRAEL CONGREGATION
Welcome to our Synagogue!
Hegyon Libi —Thoughts from the Heart by Rabbi Philip Cohen, Ph.D.
Spring will be here. Sure as I’m sitting here on the third day of things being shut down, it will all come to an acceptable end,and not too far in the future.
Our congregation continues growing in spirit and in numbers. Last month I wrote about our new religious school, which has grown to fourteen students. I am so proud of the families who have made the commitment to our temple, and I am equally proud of our board of directors who saw the wisdom in creating this institution. I invite any of you to join us on a Sunday morning to observe and partake of this wonderful new aspect of our congregational life.
In the Torah portion Ki Tissa, found in the book of Exodus, after Moses quells the rebellion of the Golden Calf, there comes a moment when he and God have a quiet moment together, a moment of fellowship and commitment. I like to think they’re partaking of a couple of five dollar cigars and perhaps a nice aged Scotch. Moses thinks to himself, you know, this God and I have been through a lot. You know, the Plagues, the Sea, the Commandments, and now that foolish Cow. We’re partners, this God and I, a partnership forged in suffering, celebration, and blood. I’d like to get closer to this God of mine.
And so Moses asks God to allow him to perceive this God’s entire essence. But God says no human can see my Following in God’s Footsteps face and live. No human can see the totality of Who I am and remain human. The human essence can tolerate only so much of Me, for I am too total for any human. However, Moses, you can see my Back, and so you shall. Whereupon God places Moses in the cleft of a rock, blocks his sight temporarily, and allows Moses to see the Divine Back.
I’ve always been amazed by that image, the picture of Moses nestled in the cleft of a rock while God’s Back passes by. We cannot see God’s Face, but we can see God’s Back. Is there any meaning in that?
Well, of course, asking the question demands an answer. God’s Back is what we see; God’s Back is what we experience. God’s Back is the motion of God passing before us and, implicitly at least, asking us to follow, to see where and when and how God passes and we follow.
And it is this following of the God who passes before us and Whom we follow that is of interest to me. It is following the Divine before us that is of interest to me.
Although we are a congregation with a history of nearly a century, we are also a new congregation, with many new members joining our numbers every year.
We are a new congregation in other ways: Our many programs, Mitzvah Day, our monthly programs begun by our Congregational Nurse, Judie Cohen, our many educational programs, our participation in HardLox, our movie nights, our Holocaust Memorial programs, our newly renovated kitchen, Beit Sefer Agudas—our new religious school, our Purim service, our Simchat Torah service during which we unfurl the Torah, our Israel Committee, our Caring Committee. So much is new and innovative within our four walls. So much of what we do is in the effort to march behind God’s Back. So much is our readiness to work to be worthy of following in God’s footsteps.
But we need you; we need every soul, every Agudasnik, to follow along, to be a part of this great experiment of ours too, to participate and to create, to join and to lead. We are a congregation that is working to comprehend the meaning of following in God’s footsteps. We should all be proud of that effort and that striving, and we should continue to be excited at who we are and what we can become.