IMG_2100aTo Become Better

Dear members of the Etz Chayim family,

There are all sorts of reasons why people come to synagogue. I think the best reason was something that a friend of mine said to me while we were discussing the topic. He said, “Some of us come to synagogue to try to figure out how to become better people.”

When all is said and done, religion can be a force to help us become better people. Like all human endeavors, religion has a mixed record. But at its best, religion — I’m talking about our Jewish religion — affords us community solidarity, moral instruction, intellectual challenge, historical pride, and all manner of possibility for societal betterment.

Our ancient rabbis said it best. They ask a question on the passage in Deuteronomy, “We are told to ‘follow God.’ But how can we follow God, when the Torah itself says that He is a ‘devouring fire’?” And the answer is that we are to follow His attributes. “As God is compassionate so shall you be compassionate. As God is righteous so shall you be righteous. As God is just so shall you be just” (Sifre Ekev, 11:22). There is a lot of theology in that brief midrash. But in practice it isn’t complicated at all. We human beings weave and wiggle between our selfish natures and our better angels. (Just look at what’s going on in the world and you’ll see what I mean.) In my personal opinion, Etz Chayim is composed of an awful lot of angels! If any part of this message speaks to you, please come and participate with us. We welcome you any time.

Stephen Listfield

Yom Kippur Supplementary Reading Selected by Rabbi Listfield