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From the Bottom of our Hearts, Thank You!

on Friday, March 28 2014. Posted by Rabbi Efrem Goldberg

This week we shared our BRS Annual Journal Dinner celebrating our 30th Anniversary and showed this fantastic new Video.  I share my remarks from the evening in the hope that you will join me in thanking those so worthy of our gratitude:

Fifty years ago, a very prominent and learned Rabbi attended the dinner of the institution he led only to learn that night of his impending “retirement.”  As you can imagine he was shocked and outraged.  When called upon to speak, he began as follows:

Aleinu, Asher Yatzar and a Mamzer came to God to voice their grievances.  Asher Yatzer said: Dear God, what will be with me. The only time people consider me is after they go to the bathroom.  Hashem, with great compassion told him: Don’t worry, you will not only be thought of in connection with the bathroom.  For now on, you will be recited under every Chupa in celebration of the union of every Jewish bride and groom.

Aleinu then chimed in with it’s complaint.  God, I have been placed at the very end of davening.  People say me on their way out of Shul without paying any attention.  Hashem responded with great compassion again and said: Don’t worry, you will have an exalted place in Davening.  For now on, Aleinu will be the centerpiece of the Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur Mussaf.

The Mamzer was the only one left and said, God, what about me?  I am the lowest of low. My status leaves me isolated, alone and rejected. Hashem turned to the Mamzer and said: Don’t worry, I’ll make you the Shul president.

How fortunate are we that as we honor our Past Presidents on the occasion of our 30th anniversary, unlike the Rabbi that night, our feelings towards each and every one of them is only love, appreciation, affection, gratitude and tremendous admiration.

In December, when we marked our actual birthday, I delivered a derasha about the significance of the number thirty.  The mishna says ben sheloshim l’ko’ach, usually translated as thirty is the age of strength.  I suggested then that perhaps ko’ach can be understood in the context of the Ramban’s expression, “min ha’koach el ha’poel” going from potential to real. Ben sheloshim l’koach then means at thirty, one has enough life experience, knowledge and education to understand their potential and to set out to realize it fully.  At thirty, one must begin to express the strengths that were hidden inside all along.

For the first thirty years of our community we built infrastructure, governance, attracted members, created auxiliaries, built a campus and community created partnerships and alliances.  Now that we have turned thirty, it is time to realize our ko’ach, to fulfill our potential as a community and to unleash the collective energy that we as a community possess if we work together.  At thirty, we are mature, developed and sophisticated enough to know who we are, what we stand for and what we can accomplish in the years ahead.  In December, we marked our birthday by talking about the future.  We shared a vision of where we can go from here.

Tonight, I want to mark our 30th anniversary by talking not about our future, but about our past and giving hakaras ha’tov, expressing deep gratitude and appreciation for our present.   In this week’s parsha we read about tzara’as, spiritual leprosy.  Our portion describes what takes place when this malady afflicts the skin or clothing.  In next week’s parsha we learn about what happens when we enter the Land of Israel and it afflicts a home – nig’ei batim.  The law is the home must be emptied of its contents.  It is traditionally understood to be a punishment of sorts.  By having to bring everything outside, the neighbors will know the home was afflicted and the owner had been guilty of inappropriate behavior.

However, perhaps this law can be understood not as a punishment, but as a part of the rehabilitation and therefore a blessing.  By taking every single item out one by one, the homeowner will be reminded of furniture, fixtures and features that he or she had taken for granted.  He or she will look at each of them and remember not to take them for granted again.

Thank God, our home, our Shul and our community are not afflicted; we are blessed beyond words.  However, we too must not take anything or anyone for granted.  We enjoy all that we have on our campus, our programming, our youth activities, adult education, etc. only because of the hard work, selfless sacrifice, devotion and dedication of our founders, members of our Board of Directors, our generous donors, our committee chair people, volunteers, and especially, our Shul Presidents.

There are few positions in Jewish communal life with less appreciation and more grief than a Shul President.  The President is responsible ultimately for the fiscal wellbeing of the Shul, its governance, keeping members happy, resolving conflict, overseeing safety, and more.  We think that Presidents have the luxury of spending their time discussing vision and big ideas and to a certain degree they do.  However, they spend the bulk of their time listening to complaints about the toilet paper, not getting an aliyah, the brand of egg salad at shalosh seudos and the settings on the AC thermostat.

We have been blessed with presidents who are patient, gracious, kind, sympathetic, generous and who consistently show up when called upon and even beforehand.  In the early years, our presidents got their hands dirty literally with setting and cleaning up kiddushim.  More recently our presidents have had to get their hands dirty with very difficult issues and impossible decisions.   We are so grateful to each and every one of them for putting their unique and personal touch on our community.  Thank you!

We can’t discuss the history of our community without thinking about Mike Senders and his beloved wife Peppy a”h.  Mike – you have contributed enormously and I am not referring to the Senders library or your having helped start the Scholarship Fund or being part of the Pillar society.  You contribute something infinitely more valuable on a daily basis.  You are a role model of davening, of respect, of derech eretz, of how to be an amazing father, grandfather, and great grandfather.  Your commitment to Torah and to the philosophy of deracheha darchei noam, the pleasantness of what it means to be an observant Jew, serves as a constant model for us.  Yocheved and I feel so honored to spend so many Shabbos meals together.  Your zemiros, divrei Torah and interest in our children greatly enhances every time we are together.   Tonight, we not only thank you, but we want you to know how much we value you.

Chazzan Moshe and Gali – what can I say other than please stay!  You have meant so much to our community over your years in Boca.  You came here on shelichut and tonight we can emphatically say mission accomplished.  You have enriched our Sefardic minyan davening, you have inspired the children of our community and you do so with such modesty, humility, goodness and true yiras shomayim.  You are both incredible people with generous spirits and zest for life.  While we are so sad that you are leaving, we know we will continue to spend time together in Eretz Yisrael.

If tonight is about hakaras ha’tov and not taking for granted the people who make our community so incredible, bear with me for another few moments while I thank our amazing BRS professional staff without whom our community would simply not function.

  • Rabbi and Arielle Moskowitz – your dedication, selfless efforts, incredible competency and genuine care for all make BRS better every day.  Thank you both for all you do.
  • Rabbi and Simone Broide – We all constantly draw from your incredible energy.  Your love of all Jews and commitment to the greater Jewish community mean so much.  Thank you for your untiring efforts on behalf of our BRS community.
  • Rabbi and Aliza Pilichowski – many in this room, particularly those without children at home, don’t begin to appreciate what you both contribute not only to the youth, but also to our community as a whole.   Your open home, gracious hospitality, generosity and Israel advocacy set the standard.  Thank you.
  • Rabbi and Hadassah Smolarcik – your leadership at our satellite, BRS West is invaluable.  Thank you for your wisdom, partnership and leadership.
  • Matthew and Tova Hocherman – Though we didn’t make this very public, based on a unanimous vote, Matthew’s title recently was changed from BRS Administrator to Executive Director and he couldn’t be more deserving.  You work behind the scenes every single day to make sure our community functions flawlessly and you do so with a big heart and great devotion.  Thank you Matthew and Tova for all that you do.
  • Linda – You are my right hand and I couldn’t function without you.  Your dedication knows no bounds as you think about our community and its members constantly.
  • Kerry – Every day we ask you to do more and more and that’s because you do it all so well.  You are the most knowledgeably Irish Catholic girl about Judaism in the world.  Thanks for everything and cheers!
  • Amy – It isn’t unusual to come in on a Sunday and find Amy sitting at her desk. Thanks for keeping our books in order and us in line.
  • Jamie – You are the newest member of our staff and you have added so much.  Thank you for being such an important part of our team.
  • Theo & Jr. – You are the unsung heroes who turn over rooms, stack and unstack chairs, clean bathrooms, serve meals and clean up candy wrappers and do the work of at least a dozen men.   From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.
  • Wendell & AJ – It is not an exaggeration to say you would both take a bullet for any of us.  Thank you for making us more secure and thank you for becoming part of our family.

Rabbeinu Bachya often emphasizes that hakaras ha’tov, gratitude and appreciation are indispensable and critical values of Torah upon which all else is built.  Please join me in thanking all of the people I mentioned and letting them know how much we appreciate all that they do.

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