Rabbi Michael Adam Latz
Shir Tikvah Congregation
Shabbat B’ha-a-lot’cha 5773
25th Anniversary Service
Song of Hope, Song of Moral CourageMore than three millennia ago, an impoverished shepherd couple named Avram and Sarai heeded the call of the Divine, embraced God’s covenant, and in their first act as Jews, welcomed strangers into their tent. It was radical at the time - these guys could have been bandits or marauding murderers or worse - idol worshippers - but Abraham and Sarah courageously opened the flaps to their tent wide and welcomed the strangers with food, compassion, and love. Their courage became the central spiritual act of the Jewish people.
We’ve been striving to live up to their ideal ever since.
From Nachson who waded into the waters of liberation when everyone else was afraid of the future and terrified of returning to the past; to Esther, who, according to the megilah, was created for such a moment to save our people; to the Rambam, who called the wandering in the desert God’s schooling the Children of Israel in courage (Guide for the Perplexed 3:32), we are a people soaked in the responsibility to live with moral courage.
Our community’s name, Shir Tikvah - song of Hope - belies the fierce moral courage that inspires our vision and compels our holy work.It took a remarkable act of courage to create a new synagogue community; a new way of envisioning Jewish life; great moral courage to say that our sacred purpose is to redraw the circle of Jewish life and include those who had been previously left on the margins, to live a robust life of Torah, justice, prayer, and love.
It takes a remarkable amount of moral courage each and every day to sustain such a vision, to ask the hard, troubling, and sometimes painful questions to live an authentic, inclusive, creative Jewish life.
And yes, it takes courage to sing a song of hope with the harmonies of others who bring a different but equally valuable and vital song to the world, to forgive the past, to build communities of mutual respect and dignity with those whom we don’t always agree, but with whom our common humanity is our highest value.
We sing a song of hope first hummed into being by a band of courageous sages and leaders: Rabbi Offner and Nancy, our founders, and everyone who labored and loved Shir Tikvah into being this past quarter century. We lift our hearts in our hands in awe and gratitude. Our promise, our brit, is to sing a vision of courageous, transformative, and loving Judaism into the future. The philosopher Lao Tzu taught, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” Shir Tikvah has shown us a path of loving courage; what a legacy to sing to our children and their children!
To paraphrase the late poet Audre Lorde: "When we dare to be powerful - to use our strength in the service of our vision - then it becomes less and less important whether we are afraid."For those who were afraid but lived courageously anyway, who gathered to realize a tender, fierce vision of Jewish life, who celebrate the best of our humanity, and who believe that Judaism is a song of hope for personal and communal transformation for tikkun, for healing and for justice, tonight we celebrate the world and the congregation you have loved into being.