Midbar Kodesh Temple has never closed.
One of my colleagues recently posted a note on his Facebook page about our current predicament. Rabbi Josh Heller noted that maybe people have been asking, “when are we going to open the synagogue again?” I too have had many people reach out and ask that very same question. Rabbi Heller’s response, one to which I most heartedly agree with, was that in fact, we have never been closed. The building has been closed, but we are so much more than a building. Our worship services during the week and on Shabbat have continued unabated on Zoom and Facebook live. We continue to hold classes on Zoom. Our ECC and Religious school continued to connect with our students through Facebook and Zoom. We continue to hold virtual educational, cultural and social gatherings. We even had a Zoom Bar Mitzvah during this pandemic. We maintain our connection with our social action projects like Family Promise. I have had the opportunity to reach out to members by phone, text and email and continue my daily check-in and thought for the day on Facebook Live. Over the past three days, I interacted with our ECC parents, kids, and staff as they drove by MKT to say goodbye to one another until (summer camp?) next year. The USYers have hosted an on-line lounge and I have had the privilege of sharing Havdalah with them via zoom.
In Ethics of Our Ancestors, we read the important teaching from Rabbi Hillel, “Al Teffrosh Min a Tzibur,’ “do not separate yourself from the community.” Rabbi Hillel did not define “community” to be place, a structure or a building. “Community” for Hillel meant the people that make up the group, no matter where they may reside or congregate. Our building is important. We have spent the better part of twenty years or more pouring our hearts and souls into creating the special Jewish space that is Midbar Kodesh Temple. We have memories of baby namings, Bnei Mitzvah, weddings and funerals. We have studied together, prayed together and socialized together. Physical proximity, intimate connection, is an integral part of who we are as human beings and especially as Jews. We are working daily to plan for the eventual opening of our physical campus to our members, and that time will come. Until that time, we continue to find ways to remain connected with each other.
Just this coming week is chock-full of activities. This shabbat we have a visiting cantorial candidate, Cantor Joel Lichterman, who will join me in leading our Zoom worship services at 6 PM on Friday and 9 AM on Shabbat morning. Sunday evening May 24th, we will host our weekly Family Trivia night. Tuesday night May 26th we will host a Virtual Family Scavenger Hunt. Thursday night we will have our Virtual Community-wide Tikkun Layl Shavout where I, along with Rabbis Goodman and Hodson of Temple Beth Sholom, Rabbi Cohen of Sinai Temple, Rabbi Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid and Rabbi Mintz of Congregation Pnei Tikvah, will each be teaching sessions on what we can learn about our Jewish identity through television and movies. There are links to all these events on our website and social media. All this, plus minyanim and regular weekly classes, just this coming week. You see, we were never closed.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom.
Rabbi Bradley Tecktiel has been Midbar Kodesh Temple's spiritual leader since August 2008. Rabbi Tecktiel was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in May of 1996. He holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees, one from List College and one from Columbia University. He also holds a Masters of Arts from the Jewish Theological Seminary.
You can follow him on Twitter @RabbiMKT.