Rabbi Kenter's Musings

From the Rabbi's Desk
AJ Shabbat Musings Parashat Bo 5779 
Thursday, January 10, 2019  |  4 Shevat 5779

This week's reading from the Torah describes Pesah Mitzrayim and Pesah shel Dorot, the original Egyptian Passover and the celebration of Passover in subsequent generations. Parts we do; parts we don't. We relive the moment of the Exodus and recollect the Exodus events as we relive the experience.
Judaism is predicated on experiential living. The Haggadah remains the classic best case of experiential learning as does the Friday night dinner. Both:

  • Combine heart and the heart
  • Create memories
  • Cement historic memory and historicize memories
  • Encourage the asking of questions and making of memories 

The challenge for us as Conservative/Masorti Jews is to take traditions and to infuse them with authentic, contemporary, intergenerational meaning. Through music, melody, tradition, experimentation, and experiential, spirit and spirituality, we come to address the question asked in this week's reading, one of the four seder questions:
"What does this service mean to you?" Not just to do it but to try to infuse these actions and activities with additional meaning, ancient and modern, contemporary and not-so contemporary. We ask and answer the question, what does this mean to you; why are we doing this? What does it represent? What are we trying to accomplish?
My rabbinate has been predicated on Jewish spirituality, experiential, sensory Judaism, to create positive Jewish memories to counteract negative vibes from an earlier time and place in our lives; to connect Jews to community through the implementation of programs surrounding significant Jewish life and holiday cycles:

  • The smell of freshly baked challah and foods prepared for Shabbat and Yom Tov
  • The warmth of Shabbat and Havdalah candles
  • The sight of tables set for Shabbat dinners and kiddush lunches
  • The sounds of familiar melodies and sweet prayer song
  • The feelings of joy shared in community 
  • The taste of familiar foods of Jewish celebration
  • To see children actively engaged in Tzedakah play in our Preschool
  • To hear the sounds of our children as their begin to take their rightful role in Jewish community, as they, too, learn sacred texts and as they lift their voices in communal prayer
  • To feel the excitement of young families and our community as a whole at baby namings and bnai mitzvah
  • To taste the sweetness of a community growing and striving for deeper spirituality 
  • To touch the souls of Jews struggling to find authenticity, meaning, and purpose in their lives 
  • To open eyes to the beauty and mystery of Judaism
  • To bring words to the lips of those thirsty for connection
  • To train hands to the possibility of building a better world
  • To open ears to the teaching of tradition
  • To activate and encourage Jews to play their own distinct role in sustaining the Jewish People and the Jewish State
  • To cultivate Jewish memory and to encourage spiritual growth through special programs, dinners, social opportunities, and Jewish celebration. Tu b'Shevat, Shabbat Beshallach when one custom has us put out seed for the birds; two months later [it's a leap year] we will celebrate Purim when we dress in costume, act silly, and send gifts of food the one to the other.

What does this mean to you? What does it mean to us? Share the experience, share the blessing, share the moment and then help me and help us to create many more such memories and motivations to a deeper and richer Jewish life 

Rabbi Barry A. Kenter