From Rethinking Synagogues, by Larry Hoffman:
Academic communities: Scholarly communities where members demonstrate their right to belong by reading or publishing professional papers, and try their best to prove each other wrong.
Therapeutic communities: Communities for people with common problems, where members offer mutual support and distinctly try not to prove each other wrong.
Market communities: Communities that exist because they promise concrete benefits, not because they are so central to people's lives that their members cannot imagine belonging anywhere else.
Limited liability communities: A particular class of market community, offering specialized services for a fee, and the kind of community that most of us belong to today.
Sacred communities (Kehillah Kedoshah): Communities whose worth is measured in sacred acts and relationships that connect us to one another and to God.
Sacred Community Part 1: Rabbi Zoë Klein
In the Talmud [Shabbat 127a] we read the words which could arguably be the mission statement of the Jewish people: "These are the deeds which yield fruit in time to come: honoring parents, doing deeds of lovingkindness; attending the house of study punctually, morning and evening; providing hospitality; visiting the sick; helping the needy bride; attending the dead; probing the meaning of prayer; making peace between one person and another and between husband and wife. And the study of Torah is the most basic of all."
Part of the core value of how we treat each other in a sacred community is how we welcome others, hachnasat orchim not only those from outside our community, but those within our community as well. Each and every action that we perform, overtly or covertly, has to say: you are welcome here. Walking over to a temple guest, shaking hands and greeting someone you don't know takes courage, but that's exactly what is required. Temple Isaiah is a home, and when we move into a home we become owners, not renters. Welcoming one another becomes everyone's responsibility. The rabbis said, "Gadol hachnasat orchim mikabalat penei shechinah -- greater is the mitzvah of welcoming guests than that of receiving the face of the Almighty.” Through our actions, through our devotion to one another in times both good and bad, we can become a holy community, a kehillah kedosha.
Sacred Community Part 2: Cantor Evan Kent
In the month of Elul, the month preceding the High Holidays, it is traditional to read the verses of Psalm 27. The psalm acts as a "kavannah" or opportunity for personal preparation for the Days of Awe.
In the psalm we ask God: "Do not hide your face from me. You have ever been my help."
Just as we ask for God's presence in our lives at this time, it is also appropriate to realize that as a holy community, a kehillah kedosha , we also ask that our faces not be hidden from each other and we are aware of illness, simcha, and moments of grief and sadness within our Temple Isaiah family. We have always listed condolences and mazal tovs in our monthly Isaian, however in order to properly mourn together in a timely manner, our clergy team concluded that upon the death of one of our congregants we will notify our sacred community via email, in order that we may come together as a temple family for Shabbat services or shiva.
May we not hide our faces from each other. May we come together with openness and embrace.
Sacred Community Part 3: Rabbi Rick Kellner
I am reminded of the famous scene in the book of Nehemiah in which the Torah is read publicly for the first time on Rosh Hashanah. Ezra the scribe read the Torah and translated it from the Hebrew into Aramaic (the vernacular of Israel at the time) so the people could understand. Overcome with emotion, the people respond
by weeping. Ezra instructed them to celebrate and rejoice.
What touches me about the description of the reading is that the people stood as one in order to hear the teaching of the Torah. What does it mean to stand as one and listen to the sacred words of our people's history? We can find the answer in a new book entitled Rethinking Synagogues by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman. Rabbi Hoffman describes the Synagogue as a set of sacred relationships that constitute community and the equally sacred acts that flow from it. Kehillah Kedoshah, sacred community, is a dedication to pursuing the study of Torah and putting the lessons of Torah into action. Sacred community is a place where we come together to worship God and a place where unite as one to perform acts of Tikkun Olam , striving towards returning the world to wholeness again.
Sacred community is built upon coming together as one. We have the opportunity to do that each week when we gather together to celebrate Shabbat. Shabbat evening and Shabbat morning are opportunities to learn, to worship and to perform acts of loving-kindness. As you join us each Shabbat you can build a relationship with other members of this community and renew your personal commitments to Torah (learning), Avodah (worship) and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving-kindness). I look forward to meeting you and getting to know you each Shabbat.
Sacred Community Part 4: Rabbi Dara Frimmer
Jewish Applause: Yasher Koach!
I recently spent an evening with friends who were teaching their toddler to clap. "Yaaaaaay!!" we cheered as we clapped our hands together, nodding and laughing, hoping the child would imitate. Determined to succeed, the evening was filled with celebration and smiles, a world in which every action merited applause. Finally, our young apprentice responded, and we marked the victory with a standing ovation.
Most of us have experienced the power of praise: it supports us; it motivates us; it inspires us. Yet, just as our words change when we enter the sanctuary on Shabbat, so too do our actions and behaviors. Instead of clapping our hands, Judaism gives us a language of applause. Yasher Koach, literally, "May your strength be firm!" is the standard expression of congratulations for those who have had helped to create a kehillah kedoshah , a sacred community of worship, study and activism.
When we offer a d'var Torah (a word of Torah), or accept an aliyah(coming up to say the blessing over the Torah), we can applaud such efforts by saying Yasher Koach!
When we announce a significant accomplishment in our lives, or report back on our efforts to green our homes or donate beds to Beyond Shelter, we deserve a strong, supportive response: Yasher Koach!
May your strength remain strong as you continue to serve our community. Yasher Koach!
May all of your efforts infuse our kehillah kedoshah with holiness. Yasher Koach!
May we be inspired by your leadership and discover our own strength to act. Yasher Koach!
Try it out and see what happens!