Rabbi Henry M. Weiner, my childhood rabbi at Temple Shalom in Aberdeen, NJ, told the following story:
A rabbi wanted to teach his students an important lesson. The teacher directed each of them to go out into the forest, select two twigs of equal size, and bring them to her.
When they returned, she asked the eldest student to take one of his twigs and break it in half. The stick snapped with great ease. The rabbi then gestured for the second student to do the same. It broke in two with very little effort. The third student also was asked to sever one of her sticks, and she completed the task in an instant.
The rabbi then took a piece of thread and bound the three remaining twigs together. She handed the small bundle to the first student and asked him to break it in half. The student tried but could not snap the twigs. Neither could the other two students. This time, the sticks remained intact.
This story is a wonderful allegory for those of us who cherish synagogue life. My rabbi loved to tell it because such a simple message conveyed a profound message. Strength — and blessing, love, meaning, purpose, etc. — comes from connecting with one another.
We were reminded of this eternal truth when the pandemic arrived, and we craved engagement. Remember that our Jewish identity burns brightest when it is fueled by people who are there for one another in moments of need and times of celebration. I know many of you were grateful for being a part of TBT, sustained by this sacred community presence even when you could not be inside the Temple building.
I feel blessed that our family now is part of the TBT sacred community and for the privilege of serving as your rabbi. We have a lot to look forward to in the weeks, months, and years to come. My first ‘official’ day was July 1, and yet I have been active for a couple of months, getting to know a community already in progress and working on essential projects. There is a magnificent team of talented and engaged volunteers and staff in place, and it is a privilege to partner with them. I am eager to dive in full-time and be fully present in the life of TBT and its members.
As we get to know one another, please do not hesitate to reach out to me via email at RabbiBrianBeal@gmail.com or at the Temple. I look forward to engaging with each one of you personally as we build additional bridges that connect us one to the other.
Unfortunately, family circumstances caused a brief delay to my ‘TBT move-in day.’ My father became seriously ill, and there was a need to fly to Florida yesterday. I am with my mother and brothers and look forward to returning to TBT as soon as possible. In the interim, I am grateful to our presidents, Lisa and Steve, Student Cantor Erica, Joyce, Alissa, and the entire team of staff and volunteers as they ensure that all of your needs continue to be met to the best of our ability.
I look forward to meeting each of you soon!
Rabbi Brian K. Beal