Board Installation Kabbalat Shabbat drash

Rabbi Philip Weintraub
Congregation B’nai Israel
September 13, 2019

Tonight is a special evening. In just a few moments we will enter into the social hall and acknowledge the leaders of our community, our synagogue board, our sisterhood board, our Mitzvah Men’s Club board. We thank those whose incredible efforts have brought us to this day, those who have served in leadership positions previously and those who will continue in their roles. Although our board has been working since July, tonight’s installation is their formal welcome.

People join synagogue boards for so many reasons, but ultimately, the position is one of deep faith. Serving the community is serving God, Torah and Israel. As such, it is essential that every decision the board makes abides by that mission, abides by that framework.

At the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Bill Lebeau not only taught us the practical skills of being rabbis, the sacred texts that would inspire us, but he modeled a warm, thoughtful, and intelligent Judaism. One fine morning, he shared a text that was foundational for him, and especially timely tonight. He said that it included almost everything we needed to know about being a rabbi, about being a teacher, about being a leader. Since there are 48 crowns of Torah, I’ll highlight a few of them.

Pirkei Avot 6:6 opens:
The crown (leadership through) Torah is greater than the crown of the priesthood or the crown of royalty, for royalty is acquired by thirty stages/crowns, and the priesthood by twenty-four, but the Torah by forty-eight things. By study, Attentive listening, Proper speech, By an understanding heart, By an intelligent heart, By awe, By fear, By humility, By joy,...By generosity,...Who rejoices in his portion, Who makes a fence about his words, Who takes no credit for himself, Who is loved, Who loves God, Who loves [his fellow] creatures, Who loves righteous ways,...Who does not delight in giving legal decisions,...Who listens [to others], and [himself] adds [to his knowledge], Who learns in order to teach,...And who says a thing in the name of him who said it. Thus you have learned: everyone who says a thing in the name of him who said it, brings deliverance into the world, as it is said: “And Esther told the king in Mordecai’s name” (Esther 2:22).
My teacher, Rabbi Bill Lebeau
This text shows us many different types of leadership, teaching that the best leaders are those that use our sacred traditions to make their decisions. Last week we saw that the King was required to keep a Torah beside him at all times! The best leaders are those that listen to the needs of the community. They do not celebrate power, but use it judiciously, carefully. This mishnah teaches that we must act with love towards our community and we must be loved in return. As the boards consider their options in a given situation, they must ensure that the membership understands their processes. All decisions must be for the good of the community AND for the Holy One. Serving on a board is not only about the numerous volunteer hours, but also shows a financial commitment. As we advocate for our Step Up campaign, this board is modeling it.I cite this teaching in the name of my mentor, Rabbi Bill Lebeau. To this day, he teaches that when we share credit, when we acknowledge where our teachings come from, we are making this world a better place.

I offer my thanks for your hard work and look forward to working together this year. As you strive to sustain the operational, and yes, the financial aspects of our synagogue, I am excited to partner with you on taking us to new spiritual heights. Together the future of CBI looks bright! Shabbat Shalom.