The Book and I
I was raised in a highly intellectualized universe. In that world, the text was all. The written text was to be studied, mastered and transmitted. The book was sacred. If you dropped it, you quickly picked it up and quietly kissed it. If the book was left open, it was immediately closed, for left open it was an insult to the word. A book accidentally placed on the shelf upside down was an offense to be righted. The library was the sacred center of the home. All of my friends had libraries. When Malkah and I were married, one of the first purchases was an inexpensive series of glass bricks which would hold up the shelves of books.
I do not regret that bibliophilia. But it took a congregation to teach me that there is more to real life than quotations. It took the members of a kehilah, Valley Beth Shalom, to teach me that ideas were not enough. From you I learned what was missing from the life of ideas, mainly the emotional life, the life of the heart. The heart has its reasons that the head does not even understand.
Books, authors, teachers have informed me and I am indebted to them, but the persons in this kehilah put flesh on the skeleton of the text through the frank conversations. In the privacy of the study, in the nervous joy of the brith, in the excitement of the bar mitzvah, the pride at the wedding, the fears in the hospital rooms and the melancholy of the mortuary, I learned that with all respect to the text, it offered only vicarious living.
Life must be lived and life must be loved, and that the rabbinate offers with generosity. Every day I deal, not with patients or clients or customers, but with persons who know themselves to be part of a four millennial family, and whose Jewishness is felt like the tug of an invisible cord connected to “obscure forces and emotions.”
Haverim of Valley Beth Shalom, you have shaped me. You have taught me humility, the goodness that lies concealed, the responsiveness to the call for mercy and justice.
Through you I have become a better Jew, a better friend and a better person. For this, my sincerest gratitude.
- Harold M. SchulweisRabbi
Preserving the Legacy
The Audio, Video and Document Libary
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Extending the Legacy
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Enhancing the Legacy
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