In my recent visit in Israel I met a man who has studied and researched for years the sounds that birds use to communicate… I asked him if the birds have any sound which expresses the idea of the ‘creator’ or ‘God’ of nature. He replied: Nothing of that sort! Their languages are very practical, transmitting information about availability of foods and about dangers – They do not waste time or energy on philosophical questions…” I asked myself: How come we, human beings spend time not only thinking about an abstract concept of ‘God’, but also produce textbooks of talking and praying to God? Apparently none of the other creatures in our world is endowed with the analytical mind to understand that the world had existed before I was born, and will continue to exist after I will perish… Hence, only our existence as HOMO SAPIENS -thinking human beings, gave birth to the idea of a super-power who has always been and forever will be, and we, mortal creatures, have the challenge and the privelege of acknowledging God as our creator, as ‘Melech haOlam’ –King of the Universe’.
“Atem Eday, neum Adonay, vaAni El –You are my witnesses, says Adonai, and I am God” [Isaiah 43,12] – “AS IF כביכול KIWJACHOL without your being my witnesses, I am not God” [Psikta d’Rav Kahana 12,6] -Had God created the solar system, and within it planet ‘earth’ in an orbit which enables trees and flowers to blossom, fish to swim and birds to fly, but without creating human beings, the Creator would not have been acknowledged as ‘God’!
I leave aside the question whether there are intelligent creatures in other planets or stars. In this planet we, human beings, wish to believe that there is a reason and purpose for the ongoing cycle of birth, growth, aging and death. We must be a part of a process that leads to something more meaningful and noble than only struggling for survival… Creation was not a series of coincidental changes and innovations, and whatever happens in the course of time, will eventually lead toward a better world.
Moreover, our tradition claims that on this very day, the first day of the month of Tishri, God should be acknowledged as ‘King’ of the world. Why did the rabbis, almost twenty centuries ago, determine that today is ‘Coronation Day’ of the ‘King of all Kings’? Simply because they determined that God completed the task of creating the world and the first intelligent human beings, Adam and Eve, on the first day of Tishrei. If you think that all rabbis agreed that tonight is ‘Birthday of the world’, you do not know the rabbinic mind! There was a debate about the date between R. Joshua and R. Eli’ezer, two leading scholars by the end of the First century: The first was convinced that creation was completed In the Spring season, 1st of Nisan, and the second was certain that God finally took a break in the beginning of the Autumn season, 1st of Tishri.
Why did Judaism prefer the date of R. Eliezer over the date suggested by R Joshua, in spite of the fact that during Biblical times the annual calendar always began in the spring? I believe that the reason is the Jewish concept of being partners of God in the endless act of creation. If the first Adam found nature in the autumn season, he had to plow and sow and plant trees… but if creation was complete in the spring season, when corn in the fields and fruits on the trees have already ripened, there would have been little for him to do and to strive for… We must keep in mind that the Biblical Garden of Eden was NOT a 5-Star Hotel, but God entrusted Adam “to cultivate and to guard” the Garden [Gen.2:15]. Several rabbinic midrashim teach that God deliberately created an imperfect world in order that we, human beings, use our ingenuity and creativity to improve it… We do not find ready-made loaves of bread and cloths to wear in nature. Even the ‘natural’ male human body needs improving by removing the foreskin… This is how our Sages explained the mitzvah of circumcision to their Helenistic and Roman neighbors…
We are invited to be God’s partners in repairing and perfecting the world! This enormous task begins with making our lives safer and healthier by harnessing the enormous sources of energy around us, the sun, the winds, the ocean and the rivers in a manner that instead of destruction they will work for human benefit. No less of a challenge is harnessing and utilizing human energy in a manner that instead of destruction, this energy will work for human benefit…
The very term “Tikkun Olam -Repairing the World” sounds presumptuous! How can we change the behavior of milliards of human beings? Once we repair and improve ourselves, it radiates and influences the people around us, and they go on transmitting positive energy to more people… Let us not underestimate the chain effect of what we do, and what we refrain from doing. Human contribution is needed even when God is directly involved in solving a problem. The Sea of Reeds (Yom Suf) did not split until a leader from the tribe of Judah jumped into the water and headed forward until the water reached his chin… i.e. We must make an effort to deserve a divine miracle… Another midrash attempts to justify the behavior of the two sons of Aaron, who innocently believed that even when God sends fire from Heaven, it is their duty to ignite a man-made fire, and bring it to God’s alter…
What do these rabbinic midrashim teach the members of Beit Warszawa gmina today?
A mature and healthy congregation is never given to its members on a ‘Silver Platter’ –neither man-made nor God-made silver platter. A genuine ‘gmina’ is established only when at least a minyan (ten) of adults contribute talent and knowledge, time and money, in a coordinated effort to establish a second home where the members mutually enrich the social, cultural and religious life every week. We thank Mr. Severyn Aszkenazy and Princess Irina for giving our congregation a big push by supplying us with this spacious, clean and well-maintained building. We are grateful to Rabbi Beliak whose tireless efforts enable us to continue with essential projects, first and foremost, the Step by Step program and the Shatz training project. One of our members, Ehud Brunicki, gave a generous donation in order for Beit Warszawa to continue employing its rabbi for the next two months. J.D.C continues to support our children activities and the celebration of major Jewish Holidays. Our president, Piotr Stasiak, and some of our members invest time and effort to get support from other public funds. We are in the final phase of editing a comprehensive Hebrew-Polish Prayerbook of 300 pages. This project required hundreds of work-hours, some were paid for but many hours were invested by volunteers such as Marek Jezowski and Zivah Nativ. It is in your hands to make sure that Beit Warszawa will still be active 10 years from now. We already constructed the formal frame: Statutes, elected board and annual general assembly. During 5774 we have had members who volunteered whenever the rabbi and his wife were away, to write and deliver sermons, chant Hebrew verses from the Torah, lead a study session… We even have a member, Joe Smoeczenski, who taught us how to lift up a heavy Torah Scroll, without (God forbid) dropping it to the floor… During the recent year, 5774, except for dinners on R.H. and Pesach, all the Festive dinners, on Sukkot, Hanuka, Purim, Shavuot etc. were meals prepared by our own members, who also set them on the tables, and cleaned when the dinner was over… Moreover, Kashering the kitchen for Pesach was performed by volunteers, mainly from our Step by Step group. The active involvement of each of us will determine the atmosphere we create in our gatherings for prayer, for study and for the common meals. Beit Warszawa should be heading toward becoming an independent congregation Hence we ask each of you to take now a form in which you will spell out how you will volunteer from your time and talents to the vitality of our ‘Gmina’ in this new year of 5775 Bring them back no later than Friday next week, -I am sure that by the eve of Yom Kippur, we will be delighted to view these forms, and be filled with optimistic vision for the future of our ‘gmina’.
Let each of us and all of us unite in being partners of God in this sacred work of Tikun Olam! Shanah Tovah! A healthy and Jewishly active new year!