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Rabbi Marcia Tilchin



The holiday of Shavuot begins this year on Tuesday evening, June 11. The liturgical focus of June 12th’s Torah reading is a recitation of the Ten Commandments starting with the most esoteric: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2).  Even the most casual reader of text might wonder what about that first commandment is actually a commandment.  As the decalogue proceeds, God’s guidance remains cryptic.  How exactly does one avoid “taking the Lord’s name in vain” or “do no manner of work” on the Sabbath?  What actions are required to fulfil the mitzvah of “honoring one’s parents”?  Countless volumes of rabbinic literature have flowered from questions like these designed to help manifest God’s wishes to live in covenantal relationship with the People Israel.


The thing we must assume about these exhortations is that each of the “aseret hadibrot” is intended to help us live better lives, and our job is to figure out what that looks like in our own sphere.  For example – no two people “covet” the same things in the same way, but developing our muscles of personal gratitude for that which we have is essential for good mental, emotional and spiritual health no matter who we are or how we might envy greener-looking grass on the other side of someone else’s fence.


There is Torah (“instruction”) to be found in every life experience as well as every personal and professional encounter.  Here are ten important lessons I have integrated by being part of the Temple Beth Emet community:

1 - Spirituality comes in all shapes and sizes

2 - Healthy change requires patience and process

3 - As institutions evolve, so too do their audiences

4 - Congregational families with strong bonds can weather much

5 - Teamwork is essential for effective navigation of complicated dynamics and forces

6 - Hesed (lovingkindness) can be manifest in many different and subtle ways

7 - Everyone has something to offer their faith community      

8 - Getting people excited about Jewish learning is a gift that keeps on giving

9 - We can train ourselves to see the Godliness present in error and imperfection and last, but certainly not least…

10 – Sometimes Elvis IS in the building


Thank you for the opportunity to serve and learn.  Have a wonderful summer and may Temple Beth Emet (aka The Happiest Shul on Earth) continue to go from strength to strength for many years to come. 

Hag Shavuot Sameah!                                                                                                                                                                                  

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