One of the most famous lines in the haggadah is,
“Let all who are hungry come and eat.” It’s how we begin our seder – by inviting those who need what we have to share with us.
But this invitation isn’t just about food, and it isn’t just for Passover.
In our community, some people are hungry for food. But many others are hungry for something else – something less tangible, but just as critical to life as food. They hunger for meaning. And no place in our community is better equipped to provide meaning than Temple Rodeph Torah, because all the new ideas of the modern age cannot replace the ideas which Judaism has been teaching for 3,000 years: community, learning and the possibility of a meaningful relationship with God.
When someone comes to TRT for the first time, we don’t ask if they want to join; we ask them what they are looking for – what they need. Do they need to be part of something larger than themselves, to connect with others on a more personal basis than Facebook? Do they need to challenge their brains, to grow more and learn more than a YouTube video can teach? Do they need to explore their relationship with God, or to see if such a relationship is even possible for them?
Have they heard about people whose lives were enriched by Jewish life, and need to find out if Judaism can address the empty space that no amount of web surfing or mall cruising can fill?
I always smile when I read, “Let all who are hungry come and eat,” because I wonder how many of us would actually be willing to open our home to someone who showed up on our doorstep saying they were hungry. Yet that is exactly what TRT does every day, every week, every year. When someone comes to our temple door, we don’t demand to know who they are; instead, we invite them in and ask them what they need. In this time of locking every door when we’re home as well as when we are away, this is a pretty radical approach, and it works. Not every time, and not for every person, but often enough that we are seeing people who came once, then came again and again, until suddenly they realize they are part of our community.
We turn strangers into family by offering them food for the soul. It’s an ancient idea, and you, the members of the TRT community, make it possible. From those who give of their time to those who give of their money, you are the ones who “keep the doors open,” literally and figuratively. Without your help, without your support, TRT would not exist.
In every issue of this Newsletter there are pages and pages listing the contributions which people have made to our work. People contribute to our school, to our music program, to our social action efforts and to the basic, day-to-day costs of keeping our doors open. These contributions, along with the dues which our members pay, are our only sources of financial support. There are no government grants for temples (or any other houses of worship), and most corporations exclude religious institutions from their grant-making guidelines. So every time you write a check or click on our online donation link (www.trt.org/donation) you make a difference in our temple. And our temple makes a difference in our world.
There is one fund which is not listed online, and which is not shown on the contribution form in this Newsletter. It is the Compassionate Circle, a fund devoted to making sure that TRT never turns anyone away because they are not able to meet the financial obligations of membership. In Rodeph Torah’s history, we have never turned away a family because they were unable to afford the cost of membership. Considering how tight our budget is and how carefully we watch every dollar we spend, I am proud that this remains as true today as it was when we first opened our doors. If you think you may want to help us with this vital, sacred challenge, I invite you to speak with me personally. It will be my pleasure to discuss the Compassionate Circle with you, to see if it matches your desire to feed the hungry.
The next time you come to TRT, try this: as you walk in, imagine a huge, illuminated sign above the doorway which proclaims, “Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Think of what you hunger for, then open the door and come in. Whoever you are, you are always welcome.
Wishing you a sweet and kosher Pesach,
Rabbi Don Weber
A personal note from Rabbi Weber
I want to express my deepest thanks to everyone who gave of their time, energy and support to make the Gala such a wonderful evening. I am deeply honored by the things that were said about my 30 years in this community, and I am looking forward to the future with a full and joyous heart. I am in love with Temple Rodeph Torah and each person who makes it such a special, holy place!