The Impact We Make on One Another: D’var Torah for Fairmount Temple Annual Meeting by Rabbi Scott Fox


Rabbi Scott Fox shared this D’var Torah on Parshat Naso at the Annual Meeting of Fairmount Temple on Sunday, May 19, 2013, at the conclusion of his 2-year internship as our student rabbi. Rabbi Fox was ordained as rabbi by the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, earlier this month, and will assume responsibilities as Reform Rabbi at Hillel for Cornell University in New York, in July of 2013. We encourage you to comment below, to share this posting, and to consider his teachings about the interrelationship of individuals leaving their mark on one another in community.

Our Torah is very careful with its words.  For example when  the text describes God creating the world, often great works are brought into the universe with the smallest descriptions: light was created with two simple words “yehi or.”  No fancy bright flashes or explosions of new existence, just “yehi or.”

That is why it is so intriguing that we read so many words this week on the community’s census.  Verse after verse describes the numbers and people in the community, including every last member.  “Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans…As for the Merarites, you shall record them by the clans of their ancestral house…” and so on.  According to the text though, they are not just counted according to their membership to the community of Israel, but specifically by the things that they bring to the Mishkan, our mobile temple in the desert.  “they shall carry the cloths of the Mishkan…the planks, the bars, the posts…”

The Israelites are not only each duly recorded in our people’s history, but are noted for what they bring to the community, how they serve each other.  Here the text makes a very interesting point: how we serve each other in our community is so important, it’s recorded in detail in the words of our Torah.And so it is with us.  We are each noted, each remembered by the mark that we make on one another in our community.  We know our neighbor through the impact that she has on us in our lives.  Our Torah text reminds us of this, we are not only a community of people that share meaningful moments, we are a people that affect one another, that give to one another, and that change one another.

The way that we impact each other is so important, it merits recording in our sacred text.  This is perhaps obvious, but no less important because of it: We have our neighbor to thank for making our moments so beautiful, so meaningful.

And my time at Fairmount Temple has been filled with these moments, these connections.  I’ve had the joy of leading services for the community, bringing in teachings and speaking, I’ve had the opportunity to be with people in their lives, spending time with families, talking about deep and dear questions with parents and children, sharing moments with teenagers apple picking and learning together, working with the confirmation class on their retreat, their New York trip, and just two days ago their confirmation service,

I’ve been blessed with the chance to spend time with the elderly at Menorah Park, telling stories at the religious school, sharing Shabbat with the Chevrei Tikvah community, with the library minyan, joining retreats, spending time with young parents, toddlers at KIDushat Shabbat, the 20s and 30s crowd with Fairmount Young Professionals, Bnai Mitzvah…  And every person I have talked to, listened to, prayed with, had fun with, has made these marks on me.  Each of you have left holy words inscribed on my soul, stories and moments that I carry with me as I continue my work in the rabbinate.

I don’t need to tell you that many of these holy words come from the guidance of the incredible clergy team here at Fairmount.  Their partnership and guidance has helped shape me in a way that no other people could.  I want to formally and publicly thank Cantor Sager, Rabbi Caruso and Rabbi Nosanchuk for the Torah, the teaching, they have shared with me.

I also want to especially note, that Rabbi Nosanchuk has taken a particular role in my growth as a rabbi, much of the rabbi I am today is because of the guidance, confidence and care that you have given me.  You have also taught me simply by being a role model: you are passionate, genuine, focused and forward-thinking.  You are the rabbi I aim to be.

And everyone, the community of Fairmount Temple, you are my Torah text, my holy writ, my sacred and important purpose, and I thank you for your gifts.  Your gift of time, your gift of love, your gift of guidance, your gift of your honest and deep self.  I will carry you as I move on, as I join new communities, and as I continue my service as a rabbi to our people.  Thank you.