A Time to Say “Shalom”
By Rabbi Beth Kramer-Mazer
May 1, 2018
Rabbi Hanina said: “I have learnt much from my teachers, and from my colleagues more than from my teachers…but from my students, I have learnt more than from them all.”
– Talmud Bavli, Taanit 7a
For five years, Temple Beth El has been not just my place of work but a home away from home. Soon I will be moving onto the next chapter of my professional journey as Rabbi-Educator and my tenure at TBE is coming to a close.
At this time of professional transition, I am filled with great emotion. I am proud of the sacred work we have done in partnership together here at TBE, work that will continue to live on and ripple forward as our learners of past and present move along in their Jewish journeys. I am filled with gratitude to the countless people who have enriched my life along the way, to those who were kind, inspirational, spunky, humorous, supportive, helpful, insightful, and challenging. I truly have grown and learned from just about every person with whom I interacted over the years. It would be impossible to adequately name every individual who so richly impacted my life here at TBE, so please forgive me for not attempting to do so. I hope and expect that each of you knows who you are – and please know that I know exactly who you are! I am thankful to you for nourishing my soul and challenging my mind as a growing professional, and I am grateful for the loving friendships that have developed through the years.
There is an old Jewish teaching that says that the Torah has “shivim p’nim” – seventy faces. Indeed, the Torah is an amazing prism through which to view not only Judaism but the entire world and all of its inhabitants. Each one of us interprets Jewish values, laws, customs, history, and stories in our own ways. I have been honored to watch countless people flourish in the shining light of Torah here at Temple Beth El. I loved witnessing the changes in learners of all ages as you immersed in Jewish learning and found new ways to understand your unique places in this complex world. My prayer for you is that you will always approach Torah – that is, all of Jewish learning and living – with an open, pure heart and a vivacious spirit. May the many faces of Torah continue to enrich your lives with meaning and sanctity. May you continue to explore the sacred dimension that permeates all of existence, and seek your own authentic truths through the illuminating kaleidoscope of Judaism.
When it comes to learning, the reward is usually commensurate with the effort. I have been inspired as I watched so many of you approach Jewish education, no matter your age or stage in life, with great diligence, curiosity, and enthusiasm. So many of you continue to fan sparks of dreams and Torah values into your own realities. I have sought to transmit Judaism’s wisdom and treasures to those who have forgotten them…or those who never knew them before. It is an honor to watch you yield the fruits of your labors as you explore our rich heritage. My prayer for you is that you will always stay committed to Jewish learning, no matter where life takes you. Jewish learning is indeed a lifelong pursuit, a rich endeavor that ought never end. May you continue to stretch your Jewish minds, hearts, and souls in ways that will allow you to continually soak up the incredible depths of Judaism. And know that we need not rush! Time is not of the essence in Jewish education; rather, learning and growing are the essence. Take time to savor the delicious “Beit Midrash” of Jewish life.
The Talmud teaches that “it is not the place that brings honor to the person; rather, it is the person who brings honor to the place.” (Talmud Bavli, Taanit 21) I am deeply humbled, proud, and grateful to have been a leader in this holy congregation. I hope that I have aptly lived up to my responsibilities and have brought humanity, love, passion, openness, and honor to this place. Although it is impossible for any of us to serve in our workplaces “perfectly,” I sure gave it my all and did so with a pure heart every day. And it was my great privilege to do so. I have the utmost faith that the professional and lay leadership will continue to serve this congregation with honor and with seriousness of purpose and will bring Temple Beth El to great heights in its next iteration.
The Hebrew word “shalom” means peace. We also use it to say hello and goodbye. This is so that when we say hello or goodbye to one another, we are first and foremost wishing one another the beautiful elixir of peace. At this time, I thank you all so very much for the gift of having served this congregation. May you go from strength to strength and be blessed with health, joy, a path of continual Jewish learning, and of course, the sweetest gift of all, the gift of SHALOM.
With love, respect, and blessings,