Friday, May 8, 2015

Finding Your Jewish Sweet Spot at the Levis JCC 2015-2016 Annual Meeting Dvar Torah by Rabbi David Baum

Finding Your Jewish Sweet Spot at the Levis JCC
2015-2016 Annual Meeting Dvar Torah by Rabbi David Baum



What is a Jewish sweet spot?  I did a little research into this phrase, and here’s what I found:  It’s getting to a place where your personal passions, Jewish passions, family and community, work and career, talents all come together in one central place.  Shouldn’t be too hard to find right? 

Another question I had is, what is the Torah’s sweet spot; the spot where everything converges, the very center of everything – maybe, if we can find it, it can help us find our own sweet spot.  It just so happens that we find it last week’s parashah, Acharei Mot-Kedoshim.  It’s in this parashah that we read a very famous:  V’ahavta Le’re’echa KaMocha – You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

Rabbi Akiva, one of the most famous rabbis in history, famously stated that this line is Klal Gadol BaTorah – the major principle in the Torah, and according to the rabbis, it is literally the center of the Torah – the Torah’s sweet spot. 

Loving your neighbor might sound easy, but it’s actually one of the hardest things we can do as humans.  

The text uses the word neighbor, not brother, and it does so on purpose.  Our neighbors live in different homes – we purposely separate ourselves from them – and who in here hasn’t had a problem with a noisy neighbor – note if you aren’t raising your hand, you are that neighbor; so why should I love them as much as I love myself?  Why is it the major principle of the Torah? 

The Torah here looks at this phrase as part of an overall major concept – how to be holy – kadosh.  Those of you who are not religious might want head for the hills at this point or check your phones, but stay with me here, because being kadosh is actually something that all of us must do, and it is a key element to the JCC.  When we read through the parashat Kedoshim, we see that many of the laws of holiness concern not just you, but your relationship to others.  For example, we read that to be holy, one must rise before the aged and show deference to the old.  To be holy, one must never wrong a stranger in your land, and you must accept him or her as one of your citizens, and to love him as you would yourself because you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt.  Being holy means lifting others up, especially those who might seem weaker than you, or oppressed, but it also means that we must look at each one of neighbors as if they have a divine spark within them, even if they look and act much differently than you do. 

When I look at the work of the JCC, I see a convergence, a sweet spot for our community.  It is here where everyone comes together, from the pre-school to seniors; it is here where those with special needs from all ages, from pre-schoolers, to our special Otzar program, to Camp Kavod, and more – can come and be a part of our community.  It is here where we clothe the naked through our thrift shop.  It is here where we open our arms, love them, and see them as having a divine spark within them, just like us. 

It’s here where we have an opportunity to interact with people who are different than us – they might practice Judaism much differently than we do; they might look different than we do or be at a totally other place in life; they might have special needs, but it’s here where we have the opportunity to treat our neighbors lovingingly, because they are human, just like us, and therefore you know that they search for love, for that sweet spot, just like you do. 

This is why we all love this place – because it’s where community begins, where neighbors start looking at each other differently, not just as neighbors, but as brothers and sisters. 


Thank you for all the work you all have done until now, and I wish you all good luck in the holy work you will do in the next year. 

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