This past Tuesday, 2nd day of Shavuot, as we completed our first decade in Bowdon, I set out our vision for the next decade. I have been asked to share those thoughts with you, which I will do albeit in a shortened manner rather than the entire sermon.
I would like to begin by quoting Samwise Gamgee at the start of his epic journey when he stops and says to Frodo: “If I take one more step, I’ll be the furthest away from home I’ve ever been.” Completing a decade as the Rabbi and Rebbetzen of this amazing community has been a honour beyond belief, but starting the second decade is an adventure that will take us the furthest away from home we’ve ever been. However, like Sam and Frodo, there has always been a Fellowship, with everyone from the community bringing their skill set, expertise and friendship for the betterment of us all.
Jews have historically been known as “The People of the Book”, and words have been our secret weapon. Nachi and I would like to choose three of those words as our motto for the next decade of our journey together: ולאחיו יאמר חזק – ‘To his brother he says Chazak – be strong and have courage’. Taken from the Prophet Isaiah these words were initially said as a rebuke to those who were not only misbehaving but were encouraging their friends to do likewise: but in a classic case of Jewish Chutzpah, they have been repurposed as a call to support each other in the pursuit of Jewish excellence and kindness.
I stand here today on Shavuot, the 3,333rd anniversary of the Giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, behind me are engraved the 10 Commandments, and I can’t help but notice that six out of the ten are Mitzvot that apply between people. Judaism is built on the premise of a relationship between mankind and the Almighty, but it is predicated on the relationships we build and foster between each other. Our commitment to you, members of the Bowdon Family, is that we will always say Chazak to you. In a repeat of last year’s effort, we will call every single member before Rosh Hashana, but this time we would like you to have prepared the one thing to which we can respond Chazak. Tell us how we can support you, how we can make your personal and Jewish journey more fulfilling and rewarding, and we will strive to do our very best, for you and with you.
For whilst we may feel like Samwise Gamgee that we are stepping into the unknown, we know that it is only the location that is unknown whereas our fellow travellers are known to us.
Thank you very much for your friendship over this last decade and we look forward to an incredible second one, filled with Mazal and Brocha, health and happiness, joy and success for us all.