Ben Zoma said:
“Who is wise? The one who learns from every person.
Who is strong? The one who subdues his evil (negative) inclination.
Who is wealthy? The one who appreciates what he has.
Who is honored? The one who gives honor to others.”
—Talmud, Pirkei Avot 4:1
I like to think of Ben Zoma’s quotation from the Talmud as part of my personal mission statement. It reminds me to walk humbly and be part of a greater universe. I also see Ben Zoma’s wisdom at work at TBO and would like to share with you some ways I believe his thoughts relate to Temple Beth Or.
Wisdom: I am constantly awed by the amazing collective wisdom of our Rabbi and our congregants. When issues, questions, and concerns arise at TBO, congregants are there to help. For example, when one of our congregants suddenly lost her mother and her house, members of our Mitzvah Corps sprang into action by not only preparing meals for her, but also housing her until they were able to secure her housing, and helping to get her back on her feet.
Strength: I am filled with positive energy at TBO events, and particularly at our Governing Board meetings. Rather than use their Board positions to champion personal causes and concerns, members of your TBO Board put the needs and concerns of the congregation first and foremost in their decisions. In addition, thanks to former president Heidi Piel, we have created a consensus decision-making process on the Board, where all Board members need to be in consensus to move forward on an issue. This process removes the competitive and contentious winners and losers aspect of Board votes, making for rich dialogue. It also avoids hurt feelings. I invite you to a Board meeting to see how well it works.
Wealth: We are wealthy beyond measure in the way we care for each other, celebrate together, comfort each other during hard times, and come together as a community to celebrate our Judaism. We should all feel great pride in what we have created, sustained, and grown. We have been living within our means and have been able to do wonderful things together over the past few years despite the current economic climate.
Honor: One of my favorite things to do at TBO is to listen to the b’nei mitzvah candidates’ divrei Torah. I always learn so much and it gives me great pleasure to see a room full of congregants showing such respect for our youth, as they teach us from their hearts. As my presidency nears its close, I will miss having the honor of saying a few words from the bimah to honor each student.
It has also been an honor to have the support, respect, camaraderie, and sincere appreciation that I have felt so strongly during my presidency. As much as I have given, I have gained.