A Song Upon The Dedication Of My (NEW) Home
by Rabbi Marcus Rubinstein
Shalom Aleichem! I would like to introduce myself. I am Rabbi Marcus Rubenstein and I’m extremely excited to begin serving as the spiritual leader of Temple Sinai of Middletown. This past year has been an exciting one for me to say the least. Not only was I ordained a rabbi from Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies but I also asked my best friend, Rachel, to marry me. (Don’t worry she said yes if you were wondering). Although I’ve been in school in Los Angeles and Jerusalem for 6 years, I was, am, and will continue to remain a New Yorker at heart. I grew up in New Hyde Park, Long Island, my mother is from the Five Towns and my father is from Brooklyn. Since I was a child my family has been vacationing in the Catskills at the different big hotels (the Concord, the Nevele, the Raleigh). My parents now enjoy their weekends on a regular basis (and I’ve enjoyed many myself) in their house in Livingston Manor. This area of the country and of NY is significant for me and holds a dear place in my heart.
In this time period in the Jewish year, our minds turn to the many catastrophic destructions in our history. On the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, this year July 26th, marks the date in which both Holy Temples were destroyed as well as many other tragedies in our Jewish collective memory. Sometimes it can be hard for us incredibly lucky Jews of 21st century America to remember what such destruction is like. We are incredibly blessed to live in a time when once again, Jewish people live and thrive in a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael, the land of Israel. It can be difficult to commemorate this day when we have trouble relating to the religious practices of the Temple. Slaughtering animals on an alter is no longer the way we connect to our Creator.
Regardless, God, through Jewish tradition, still commands us to remember and mourn the national destructions of our past, in particular the destruction of our holy Temple(s). So then…what are we mourning? We read in Eichah, “Gone from the daughter of Zion, is all her splendor, Her ministers are like stags without a place to find pasture, they wander without strength, before the pursuer.” (Eichah 1:6) Sure there is great mourning, but within that great mourning is a feeling of great yearning for the ethereal tranquility of a place to pasture, a place where one can find their strength and rejuvenation. We are all constantly seeking and needing that place to escape, that place in which we can find sanctuary from what pursues us.
Our search for this community, this place, can sometimes be painful. It is not always easy making community and finding a place for spiritual connection in our 21st century world in which we are tied to our pursuers (in the form of iPhones) or sometimes in the form of the 10 spies who in their hopelessness, could not see the potential dwelling in the holy land (the Pew Report).
King David also went through many trying times where he thought he was nearly lost. One of the most terrible of those times was when he was hiding form his son Absalom, who in his hunger to usurp the throne of Israel, barbarically scoured the land to murder his own father. Our scripture ascribes a psalm to King David at this time, Psalm 3. The Psalm begins “a song by David, when he was fleeing from his son Absalom: God, how great is my troubles, so many rise against me!” (Psalms 3:1, 2) The psalm expresses so beautifully David’s tremendous pain and his crying out to God. The medieval commentators ask the question, if this so obviously is a lamentation, why is the first word Mizmor meaning, a song. The Metzudot David, a commentary by the 18th century Biblical commentator R. David Altshuler wrote that even through David’s travail, he could envision the return of his kingship and a better future, therefore he prayed in song.
We too can find God in the present by seeing the potential all around us. I pray that we can continue to find moments to be present, to be in space in which we can see the potential for a bright future even in a turbulent present. This is only the beginning of what we can do as an Orange County Jewish community. We must constantly strive to see the future in our present moments and come together to build the Temple, the sanctuary we seek for ourselves, our families, our community and our world. Together, I pray, we will continue to build and facilitate more space where Holiness can dwell in our world and in our lives. I look forward to participating in making this holy sanctuary with you.