What We Do Matters and it is Good for the Soul

Sep 20, 2019 by

What We Do Matters and it is Good for the Soul

“The High Holy Days are upon us.  The High Holy Days are upon us!”  Shouts Paul Revere –stein.   Behold the miracle of the Almighty!  They are either early or late… but somehow never on time!  A miracle of Jewish time.  Or how we count Jewish time.   

We who live in two worlds.  Much of our life is spent in our secular universes. We earn a living. We raise a family. We tend to the every day challenges of life-health, bills, a hobby or two. And yet, there is another world.  A world which you to be as integrated into our life as the ubiquitous cell phones are today. As we peer addicted-ly at our phones and onto the world wide web for the answers to our everyday questions. Answers to riddles that come up? Who won the super bowl in 1986? (Answer: Chicago Bears). Who stared in the original Star Is Born? (Answer: Janet Gaynor and Frederic March.) The internet has become our new Torah.

But we know in our heart of hearts, it is soul less. 

We may be addicted to our selfies. But we are Jews, gosh darn it. And we must try, with all of our might and all of our soul to capture “Soul-fies.”  

What is it that captures our hearts and our souls? What is important. We can name a lot of things. But the proof in part of the response is that we are here are we not because we wish to take a “soul-fie.”  Because we know deep down that the answers to life’s questions can not all be found on the world wide web, they are found in the endless learning of Torah, and the eternal values of our people.

Our torah portion, Ki Tavo is a harsh one. Full of warnings of terrible things…illness, famine, poverty…evils that will befall the Israelites if they abandon God’s commandments.

Like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, our desire to do good things, seemed to be snatched from us and we fall on our “tuchus.”   Like a bad diet we quit way too early at the first temptation of celestial chocolate.   

No one said reaching the promised land would be easy.   

No one said running a Temple would be easy.    

It is not.  It is easy to take short cuts.  It is easy to take a short view.   It is much harder to take the long view.  To understand the importance of laying the foundation for a strong board; a vibrant Temple; nurturing a culture of giving;   It is all too easy to take for granted that which others would be amazed at programmatically.  To live in fear of the unknown– money, membership, keeping the “Israelites” happy.

Moses endured it for 40 years.  Most of you have a two year term or four.   And the burden is sometimes heavy.  Because we aim to please.  And we know deep down it is important.  For our community.  And yes, dare I say it, for our souls.   

We are here not just because we care.  We do.  Not just because we have a fiduciary responsibility to secure the integrity of the Temple.  We do.  We are here because we want to be part of a process that truly matters.  It matters what we decide.  It matters to us, to our community, and to the future of our faith. 

OMG.  When you put it that way rabbi, I am not sure that’s really what I wanted to sign up for!  

And yet. We all did. Because unlike a business which produces a specific product.  We are a sacred community and everyone here are levites in service to God. And our product is not a widget.  Or a better mouse trap.  Or a car.  Or a cell phone.  Our product, pardon the term, is producing Jews.   

And we understand that this matters. It matters to us.  It matters to the world.  It matters to all that we stand for deep down. And when we come here to take our “soulfies” we hope to capture now and always the sacred, special and awesomeness of this task.  

And yes, Dear God, that is what we have signed up for.   And it ain’t easy.   But this task is all of ours.   And it does both drain, and fill our souls.  

Both can be true. May this be our blessing.  Indeed, may this be our blessing.  Amen.


Rabbi Sanford Akselrad serves Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, Nevada. Rabbi Akselrad wishes to thank Rabbi Naomi Levy for her inspiration on the concept of “soul-fies.” 

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