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Nes Gadol Hayah Poh - a Great Miracle Happened Here

11/09/2021 02:23:50 PM


This past Shabbat, November 5, 2021, felt like a watershed moment for CSK.  From March of 2020 until just recently, CSK, like much of the rest of our society, had more or less been on lockdown.  Yes, we had a few positive blips this past summer when we gathered (still with precautions); but of course that enthusiasm abated quite quickly, and most unfortunately, as the Delta variant was on the rise.  Even this past Friday evening came with the dreaded announcement that as a country, we have lost 750,000 of our fellow Americans, five million worldwide.  And thank God, we are here.  We made it through. And CSK did too.  Does too.

CSK turns eight this coming December 6.  An anniversary that marks the first Shabbat gathering when close to 300 people gathered at the Merfish for a make-shift Shabbat service and dinner.  In my memory, this time is quite a blur, however there are pictures that memorialize that moment.  And one of the most profound images for me in any of these pictures are the widest, brightest smiles I remember calling, “the definition of oneg shabbat (Shabbat joy)!

Even with smiles masked, Shabbat joy was on display this past Shabbat as we welcomed Judge Lina Hidalgo to our community to bestow upon her the inaugural “CSK Rabbi Tarfon Tikun Olam” award.  I know there are some in our broad and open CSK community, who weren’t entirely comfortable with this invitation and I have had very respectful conversations with them about it.  I thank them for their candor and openness. 

Rabbi Tarfon taught, “It is not upon you to complete the task but neither are you free to desist from it.”  I was so moved, when in her accepting the award, Judge Hidalgo quoted those words back to us, not as a badge of honor, but as the humbling reminder it is to the effort public servants are sworn to uphold – to work towards making society safer, better, and stronger.   I watched her share her unscripted thoughts with us, as she spoke about how much more work there is to do, that she often feels like she and her team have just begun to scratch the surface.  And of course, it was only perhaps an hour later when she had to find herself addressing the press about the horrific tragic deaths and injuries at the Astroworld Concert.  While Judge Hidalgo’s “congregation” numbers at around 4.7M, and mine is “just a bit” smaller than that, I understand the ways in which her job can be a roller coaster of emotion, success and failure, congratulations and remorse. 

So thank God for the gift of presence in the present.  At every moment, there is much that can yet go wrong and yet go right. But the rabbis (Rabbi Tarfon’s contemporaries) ask, Eizehu ashir? “ Who is rich?” Hasameach b’chelka.  “The one who is satisfied with her lot.”  The “smeyezing” (smiling with one’s eyes, especially when one’s smile is masked) of which I speak was a confirmation that all of us there this past Friday night (including those online) was a moment of which to be proud, and to know that eight years of CSK made this possible.  The systems, the relationships, the resources, that have been garnered to make CSK a reality didn’t just happen overnight.  Our blood, sweat, and tears are, I truly believe, what God asks Moses for in Parashat Terumah.  Asu li mikdash v’shachanti b’tocham, Build for me a holy place and I will dwell among them, and in order to do so, “Ask the Israelites to give of their wealth and possessions, but only from those whose hearts are so moved.” 

CSK’s hearts have been moved over and over again.  Some might say that this year, Chanukah’s eight nights have even more meaning for us.  For there are many who assumed that CSK would have only enough moxey for a year of life.  Eight years later, Nes Gadol Hayah Poh, a Great Miracle Happened Here.  CSK is an experiment in Jewish congregational life.  It matters because we are working to reimagine how Jews, Jewish families and those who love them can access Jewish life in ways that are free of artificial obstacles.  There ought not be any limits to accessing one’s spiritual inheritance or chosen direction.  CSK is here and we stand for openness, embrace, Jewish meaning, and Jewish mattering. Join us…you already belong.

Tue, May 17 2022 16 Iyyar 5782