Friday, May 26, 2016
Neil Abramson’s Presidential Address to Congregaton Ramot Shalom in Be'er Sheva
on the Occasion of Donating a Torah Scroll
More than 60 years ago, a young rabbinical student used to fly up to Toronto, Canada, from Cincinnati, in the United States, every few weekends to lead a handful of families in Shabbat and holiday services, first in one of their homes and then in rented space in a church. And even in those early days, there was a strong desire by that small group to balance the modern with the traditional, the sacred with the relevant, and to work toward building a better world.
In time, that rabbinical student became a great rabbi and that handful of families grew to become a great and large congregation with a building containing a sanctuary, social halls and a school. Today, that great rabbi’s protégé is the senior rabbi and the congregation now has a membership of 1,600 families. Yes, like you, Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto began from very humble beginnings, as a fledgling congregation. All these many years later, we remain committed to tikkun olam, to building a better world, through that balance of embracing our tradition and ensuring its current relevance.
And now, on this day, we have been blessed to have the opportunity to give the ultimate gift to a new fledgling congregation: the gift of Torah.
You, our friends from congregation Ramot Shalom here in Be’er Sheva, have created a congregation in what was once desert. You have quite literally made the desert bloom. Many, many trees were planted long ago in order to create your community. And now, we offer you a tree of a different sort, eitz chaim, a tree of life, to help nourish not just your soil but your soul.
You have created a community and also a kehillah kedoshah, a sacred congregation. We hope and we pray that with this gift you will do that which the ancient verse that we recite every time we take out the Torah commands of us:
“Eitz chaim hee, le ma hazikim bah, tomcheha me’ushar; d’racheiha, darchei no’am, v’chol ne teevoteha shalom”
It is a tree of life. Cling to it. Find happiness from it, and we pray that it brings you peace.
My wish for you members of Kehillaht Ramot Shalom, on this Erev Shabbat, on behalf of all of the members of Temple Sinai Congregation of Toronto, is that with this Torah, your congregation will grow, that it will flourish, that you will build community around it; and that 60 years from now, or less, you will donate one of your, by then many, Torah scrolls to some other young liberal Jewish congregation.
On behalf of Temple Sinai congregation, let me thank you most sincerely for enabling us to perform this important mitzvah. As is customarily said when one book of Torah is completed: “chazak, chazak, v’nithazek”. May you grow strong and may you be strengthened, by your community and by this gift of Torah.
Mazal Tov and Shabbat Shalom.