Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Journey of Change - February 28, 2012 (Published in the Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Adelante Newsletter for March 2012)

Adam Karol, Rob Tananbaum, Samantha Tananbaum
and Larry Karol
at Congregation Beth Torah
in Overland Park, Kansas on February 18
  In the second week of February, our Wednesday Torah study session and our weekly Torah reading focused on an almost identical passage without being in the same book of the Bible!   The Ten Commandments appear in both Exodus (our Shabbat reading on February 11) and Deuteronomy (which we reached on February 9).  There is a difference in “pace” between our encounters with this central text of our tradition based on our concurrent cycles of reading and study. The weekly Torah readings have a set schedule that takes us through the Torah in a year (some congregations read a third of the portion each week and spread it out over three years).   The Torah study group approaches each chapter on its own time, without a need to quickly move on. We take more time on a particular set of verses when we feel they need more in-depth and extensive discussion.   Either path or pace enables us to fulfill the purpose of  Talmud Torah—learning and/or discovering the insights of our tradition.
At Rose Hill Cemetery
     On the third weekend in February, I joined our son Adam and our niece Samantha (daughter of Rabbi Steve Karol and Mary Karol) and Samantha’s husband, Rob Tananbaum, at the bat mitzvah of a cousin in Overland Park, Kansas.   Among our goals was to take Rob on the “family roots tour” for my family.    Adam and I spent a night in Topeka before the weekend, visiting with friends and treading many of the paths we had taken during our 22 years there.  Much of the city and the people were the same, except for the young people for whom Adam had served as a babysitter who are now as tall as he is!   The theater in which Adam had performed in many musical productions looked the same, but its brand new office looked totally impressive (it was now under the auspices of the county instead of the city, which likely influenced the upgrade).  Once back in the Kansas City area, we noted the growth of our youngest cousins and the growth of the city itself: continued expansion of many neighborhoods, the completion of an impressive performing arts center near the revitalized downtown, and a remodeled Kauffman stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals.  Many of the places may have been new, but the routes on which I drove us on our “roots tour” were the same ones I had taken for years.  We passed by two homes where my parents lived and the apartment complex which was their last place of residence; the elementary school and high school that my brother and I attended; and the cemetery where my parents are buried, where we paid our respects for a few quiet moments. After the Saturday Bat Mitzvah party, Adam, Samantha and Rob went to meet some of Samantha’s blogging friends near downtown, so I was on my own in driving back to the hotel.  I could have taken any route I wanted, including a quick ride on I-35.  I chose to leisurely drive along the roads by which the public bus took me home from my summer job at City Hall back to my neighborhood in the southern part of Kansas City, and then I drove past the shopping center near my old house (it has a Trader Joe’s!) and another shopping center where I had bowled in a league during elementary school.  Then I made my way back to the hotel.  I had selected the path that enabled me to revisit many memories from my past, but I readily recognized the changes that had occurred throughout the years.
         Change does happen, and we move forward, at whatever pace seems best for us.  We look behind us mainly to see what can help and support us on the road ahead.   Congregations also undergo changes as they grow from their original purposes for joining together to an ever-expanding vision that fits the new realities of the membership at any given time.  In Judaism, it is often the journey, not the destination, that is most important, including how we get there, what questions we ask, and the recognition that reaching any stop along the way is only temporary, because the cycles of our faith and our lives beckon us towards greater achievement and progress.  As a reading in Mishkan T’filah states, “there is no way to get from here to there except by joining hands, marching  together.”  May our journey take us through a process that will continue to help us grow together as one community!

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