Rabbi Philip Weintraub
Congregation B’nai Israel
January 26, 2019
On the Jewish calendar, today is an incredible day. During our Torah reading, we stood to receive Torah. We heard the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments, and found a special connection between God and the people Israel. On the Jewish calendar, we will read these commands again in a few months-on Shavuot. From Pesach (Passover) to Shavuot we will literally count the days between leaving Egypt and receiving Torah. We will re-imagine our journey out of the land to receive Torah. We will put ourselves in the sandals of our ancestors and remember our journey across the sea, from slavery to freedom. It is a tremendous moment. It is a huge memory.
Today we are also honoring another memory. We remember Mitch, Leslie, Hannah and Ari Weiss. In different ways and in different capacities they worked to create and sustain our holy community, our kehillah kedoshah. By dedicating this sculpture, we ensure that their memory is the heart of our community. This sculpture was placed very deliberately. It’s location ensures that with the curtains and doors open, we can see the ark, the Torahs from this very spot. Their hearts were and are physically in the center of CBI.
I did not have the privilege of knowing the Weiss family, yet the number of connections that we had are uncountable. When their loss began to trickle through facebook, I saw rabbis, JTS friends and USY friends across the country express their profound grief. I was stricken that the environmental activist, Hannah, would not get to meet my Hannah and fight for more recycling at shul. She would not discuss with me the costs and benefits of driving an electric car or putting solar panels on my home. I would not get to see Ari thrive in USY, encouraging incredible Ruach sessions. I would not get to speak to Mitch and Leslie about their incredible work and partnership, their love, and parenting. My mind slowly accepted that the woman I had spoken to with Reva while interviewing for this position would not be with me in St. Petersburg. We would not get to speak further about my desire to make the spiritual physical.
I did not design this sculpture. Yet, this sculpture is perfect for today, for CBI and for the Weiss family. It shows what they were to us--they were our heart. Just as our Torah is the heart of our lives as Jews, just as the Torah is the physical manifestation of the spiritual revelation at Sinai, this sculpture is the physical manifestation of our love for the Weiss family.
Standing here today, our grief is less fresh, the pain is ever-present, but it may not take our breath away as it did. With this sculpture, we turn our pain into beauty. We turn our mourning into dancing. In just a moment we will hear some vocal music from Hannah and Ari’s classmates at Shorecrest. We will continue honoring their memory with song.
Returning to our parsha, today is a day of embodying the spiritual. Through study of Torah, sharing the joy of Torah, celebrating with USY, reading our sacred scriptures, we bring to life the words that have inspired for millenia. I could not imagine a more perfect day to celebrate the memory of the Weiss family. May their memory be a blessing for us and for all that knew them.