Reflections From Our Annual Meeting
My reflections from this year's annual meeting:
I decided to take a different approach this year with my address at the annual meeting. Typically, I look back on the year, highlighting programs, events, and special holiday services. We indeed had all those. However, I noticed that I often shared similar information to what the president covered in their speech.
So, this year, I aimed to share a brief message from this week’s Torah portion. We find ourselves in the midst of the captivating story of Joseph and his brothers. In this Torah portion, Joseph finally discloses his true identity to his brothers.
Before this revelation, Joseph had been toying with them. He sent them back home, refusing to see them until they brought their youngest brother, Benjamin. Upon their return with Benjamin, Joseph framed him by placing royal silver goblets in Benjamin’s pack, accusing him of theft.
This holds significant weight because the brothers knew how devastated their father, Jacob, would be at the prospect of losing Benjamin after Joseph's disappearance. Judah had promised Jacob that he would ensure Benjamin's safety and return. Now, Benjamin was accused of stealing from the very man providing them with food during the famine.
The text uses a peculiar word to describe Judah's action at this moment. Just before this incident, at the end of last week's Torah portion, the moment when the silver was discovered in Benjamin’s pack and the brothers realized the danger they faced, it was Judah who spoke up and offered himself in place of Benjamin. Joseph declined, and the parsha concluded there.
The opening words of this week’s portion are "Vayigash Ailav Yehudah," meaning "Judah stepped forward." Yehudah, who had already been speaking to Joseph, physically and metaphorically stepped forward. The rabbis have interpreted this as a metaphor for the Jewish people ever since — a symbol of a people who, when called upon, step forward.
In my years here at MKT, nearly 16 years now, I've witnessed this as the embodiment of our congregation. We are a congregation filled with individuals who step up when required.
I've seen it when we needed a minyan at a funeral or shiva, when funds were required for a program or scholarship, or when physical tasks like moving chairs, painting walls, planting trees, building sukkot, or rearranging furniture were needed. Even during mass mailings.
Just last week, I had planned to be out of town for a family wedding. The cantor was prepared to cover for me, but unfortunately fell ill. With Tot Shabbat, a Shabbat dinner for over 100 people, Friday night and Shabbat morning services, and Religious School on Sunday, members of the congregation stepped up at the last minute to ensure everything ran smoothly.
"Vayigash Ailev," and they stepped forward. As a rabbi, I am blessed to have a community that, like Judah, understands what it takes to accomplish things.