This past week my wife, Debbie, and I were driving in Manhattan. We were stopped at a red light. Looking up, we saw the street “1 Av.” I thought this sign describes both place and time. “1 Av” is a major thoroughfare in New York City. But, “1 Av” is also the first day of the Jewish month of Av which begins this “Motzei Shabbat,” this Saturday night.
Av is a hard month in the memory of the Jewish people. On the 9th day of Av the First Temple was burned by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. On the 9th of Av, the Second Temple was burned by the Romans in 70 CE. It is so meshugeneh (crazy) that both these catastrophes happened on the same day. Many customs evolved among our people that reflect our sadness over these tragedies. From 1 Av until Tisha b’Av, (the 9th of Av) many Jews refrain from eating meat and drinking wine (with the exception of Shabbat.)
This year I have heard from many of you about how much you love our Temple. With awe, I have seen how much time so many volunteers give to help our Temple community.
We call our synagogue a Temple, as a prayer that this place may be a center of holiness for our community. The ancient Temple was a Bet Keneset, a place of gathering – community building. It was a Bet Tefilah, a place of prayer and spiritual growth. It was also a Bet Midrash, a place of learning and intellectual development. What was true then of the Temple in Jerusalem is still true today in our aspirations for our Temple here and now.
This summer you are invited to come back home to our Temple. The Covid exile is over. We can be together in-person to pray, socialize and lean from each other. This summer we are conducting an experiment for 7 weeks. Services will begin earlier to make it possible for people to have Shabbes dinner together after the service. Whether you eat at the Temple, go out to dinner after the service, or invite friends over to your home, I hope shabbat dinners can become a beloved part of our Jewish culture. My prayer is that instead of families choosing between Temple services and dinner we can find a way to enjoy both. Kol HaNeshama, a Reform Synagogue in Jerusalem, has a lovely custom that after Shabbat services, people wishing to be hosted for dinner go up to the area by the ark where they are greeted by families that are interested in hosting others for Shabbat dinner. This is a beautiful way for people in the congregation to get to know each other. It also helps to ensure no one is alone on Shabbes. Alavai – “May it be” that our summer services encourage more people to gather together for Shabbat dinners, as in the Temple of Jerusalem in Ancient Days.
Rabbi David Wilfond