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[This was an address delivered by Ambrose Ferber, at Erev Rosh Hashanah, 2011/5772]
I don't always know if I believe in God or not.
Like many of you, I suspect, my relationship with God is very complex.
On the surface, I seem to have all the trappings of a good Jew: I attend services many weeks, I serve on the Board, I’ve been Bar Mitzvah’d, and we send our kids to school here. We represent three generations of Jews at Temple Beth Shalom, passing that heritage to our children. I agree to give speeches on the High Holy Days. We do Chanukah, and Passover, and we have Shabbat dinner as often as we can. I even resist bacon.
To question faith is a natural part of Judaism, but my struggles with faith run deeper, to the point of complete abandonment sometimes. I have very little belief in a cosmic entity that rules our actions and listens to our prayers, or that guides the course of any human event, let alone a game winning touchdown. Certainly, the concept of A Man in the Sky is not a position I have ever subscribed to.
A few years ago, when I was deepest in my cynicism about God and Religion, my pop and I walked to Temple one early Rosh Hashanah morning. It’s a long walk, but we were nonetheless among the first souls to arrive, and so were on hand to watch as this space filled up. The room was electric, and happy, and buzzing. Reunions in one corner, people at the door meeting for the first time. “L’Shana Tovah!” everyone was calling out, and meaning it. Outside, the weather was like a Rosh Hashanah apple: crisp and snappy and sweet. Inside, well wishes, warm words, and warmer thoughts.
And, just like that, it hit me.
That little tingly warm sensation in my belly was God. People gathering and wanting the best for everyone they meet....that was God.
I stood on this very spot when spades first struck earth to build this sanctuary, and that was God.
Fiona comes to Temple and is wrapped in Love from her friends Sylvia, Bette, Meredith, Cindy, Dorothea and all the rest of you; that is God.
When music fills this room to the very rafters, that is God.
When Ben married my wife and I under a chuppah constructed by Lorraine, that was God.
When kids in the Yellow Room suddenly realize what a privilege it is to be Jewish, that is God.
When parents meet over their Preschoolers and become friends, that is God.
When Rabbi Marv gave little Chloe her Hebrew name, that was God.
When Jews from this Temple keep even one homeless person from dying on a cold night, that is God.
I have stood on this spot three times in my life and cried my heart out. That was God.
This place, for me, is a house of God, but not in the way you might think. It is the lifetime of being here with you people--and then sharing it with my children--that makes it holy.
God is not who, God is what. It is what we do that is lovely in the world that is the face of God.