Building a Spiritual Space and Spirit
Rabbi Gary J Robuck
12 June 2020
Beruchim ha’baim andShabbat Shalomto the lucky 20 minyanaires here present tonight, the first to secure a coveted spot in our new beit k’nesset, and welcome too to the many others who have chosen to join us on zoom.
Whether near or far, we all come together to welcome the Shabbat and to inaugurate the use of our long awaited worship space. As we look around it is immediately evident that our new beit k’nessethas been expertly designed and painstakingly constructed to provide both function and an aesthetic, which will enhance our avodat kodesh, our sacred service. Located as it is on the ground floor with a lovely view of the garden, it is as it ought to be, accessible to all who come to our centre wishing to be involved in community – no more mountain climbing will be necessary just to join in tefilah.
It is a safe place for those who, as our Siddur teaches, “have cares to unburden, thanks to express and hopes to nurture, ” and intended to be home to seekers of every age, background and interest here in Canberra and from around Australia. It is a credit to the effort, the love and the commitment of the vatikim– our veterans who have been present since the inception of the Centre in 1971 and a giftto the newcomers to our community and to those who, like Ruth have, or will in the future, choose to be part of the Jewish people. It is up to all of us to sustain it and to justify its construction.
This beautiful space within our Jewish Centre is a worthy and altogether fitting home for the Progressive congregation of Canberra to gather. It will help us to promote the values of Torah: chesed(loving-kindness), tzedek (justice), limud (learning) as well as inclusion, experimentation and egalitarianism. It will serve as the platform upon which we, and those who succeed us, will celebrate our Festivals, observe the Shabbat and provide educational, cultural and social engagement.
Friends, the architect designed this room. The builders constructed this room. It is up to us to bring this room to life through our occupancy and by means of the warm welcome we afford to everyone who enters here, by the sacred words that we exchange here, by the employment of the progressive Jewish principles that we abide here, by the joy that we express here, by the respect for others that we exhibit here.
But it should also be said that a congregation is not synonymous with a space. There are opulent sanctuaries that are grand but welcoming. There are intimate sanctuaries that are nonetheless cold and distant. What we should aspireto here is a space and a spirit that welcomes the gifts of every person whether that gift be intellectual, spiritual or monetary; gifts of the head, hand and heart, terumotof all sorts.
What we should aspireto is a space and spirit that ensures that each person is treated with respect, with patience and with tolerance; a heimishcongregation that is participatory, which elevates the Divine in one another, which is not myopic but open to every reasonable expression of Judaism and kind of Jewish observance.