The past

by | Jun 22, 2018 | Torah Thought

Rabbi J. D. Gordon was the rabbi of B’nai Israel Congregation of Norfolk until 1947. He gave some spirited sermons in his time and published a collection of his High Holiday addresses for future rabbis to learn from and emulate.

One year, Rabbi Gordon spoke about the past. He reminisced about the days when people travelled around Norfolk by foot or by horse and buggy. If you made a wrong turn or you missed something, you could turn around and walk back a few steps. People had time to stop and smell the azaleas. It’s not like that anymore. We drive cars, we take trains and we board planes, and now, light rails. It’s not so easy to go back. If we make a wrong turn, we could be 10 miles out of the way before we even notice. If we miss something interesting at the side of the road, there is no way that we are going to back up on the highway and get a better look. As time goes on, we move faster, and as we move faster, we move further away from the past.

Our community has a glorious past. There are people that many of us know and love who have been a part of the Norfolk Jewish community for almost 100 years. They have defended and represented Judaism through thick and through thin and through times when people thought that we would cease to exist.

They will tell you that a lot has changed in 100 years. There are a lot of new people. The songs are sung to different tunes and the bubbes and zaides of their childhood are no longer in the back of shul making sure that everyone is entertained and feeling comfortable. Yet, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

We are still passionate about Judaism. We faithfully study Torah and aim to follow its words and lessons to the best of our abilities.

We need to embrace the present. We need to cherish it, and we need to become a part of it. But we dare not forget those who preceded us and define what we stand for today.

A man once climbed to the top of a mountain. It took him several months of training and several weeks of planning. When he got to the top of the mountain after several days of climbing, he was shocked to find a little boy playing soccer. This boy could not possibly have climbed the mountain, yet there he was.

“How did you get here?” the mountain climber asked. The boy looked at him with a very puzzled face, “I was born here.”

Let’s remember the people who brought us to the top of the mountain. Let’s find ways to respect our communal bubbies and zaides and make them proud.

Rabbi Sender Haber, Congregation B’nai Israel