From The Rabbi’s Desk

Accepting The Conditional Convenant

Susan ElkodsiI’m thrilled to report that at MJC’s recent semi-annual congregational meeting, the congregation voted to renew my contract for six years, through September of 2023, to continue as its rabbi. I looking forward to continuing the work I’ve been doing for almost the past two years; both
with our current members and in the community. Malverne is a wonderful village, and the community I’ve found at MJC, in the area, and people I’ve met have been a blessing.

Another Passover has come and gone, and our next major festival is Shavuot, where we celebrate the beginning of the wheat harvest, the bringing of the bikurim, the “first fruits,” and the revelation on Mt. Sinai where we received the Torah. Jewish tradition teaches that all Jews – past, present and future, including Jews by choice – were present to hear the trumpets and experience this monumental, covenantal event. That event, the acceptance of a set of rules to live by – and in effect, a blueprint for living an ethical, moral and spiritual life – is the defining moment that makes us Jews.

There are two covenants between God and the Jewish people; one unconditional and one conditional. God made the unconditional covenant with Abraham, promising him that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach, and that his offspring would inherit the land of Canaan. The conditional covenant was made with Moses and the people at Mt. Sinai, with the giving of the Torah; basically, we agreed – na-aseh v’nishmah, “We will do and we will hear” – to accept the commandments and in return, God agreed to be with us, to sustain us.

Whether or not the Jewish people or God have upheld their ends of the bargain can be an interesting discussion for another time.

Dr. Ron Wolfson, a Jewish educator and one of today’s leading Jewish thinkers and writers, speaks of a synagogue as a covenantal community. At its most basic, one joins and pays dues and in return gets a place to worship and theoretically, access to clergy for lifecycle events. That’s the conditional – and some might say uncomfortable – part. After all, shouldn’t all Jews have access to synagogues and rabbis? Why do we need to pay to pray? Good question.

For several years MJC has offered open seating at no charge for the High Holidays, something that many area synagogues don’t offer. Anyone can come for Shabbat and holiday services, attend programs and speak with the rabbi. That’s the unconditional covenant; the synagogue is here for you because you’re Jewish and want to be a part of the community.

Just as we have both types of covenants with God, we need to have both with the synagogue. I am able to do my work as rabbi of MJC, and a as member of the greater Malverne community, because of the number of people who have accepted a conditional covenant and are active members of MJC. I am very grateful and appreciative of all that you do.

I’d like us to do more. I’d like our community to grow and continue to thrive, and that means more people involved, both by supporting financially and by participating in services, activities and programs. Membership means more than paying dues, it means making a commitment to being here for the community, and as a result, the community will be here for you.

I wish you a wonderful Shavuot!

Rabbi Susan Elkodsi