Preparing to Say Goodbye to Rabbi Heather Miller and the Torah she has Shared with BCC

Rabbi Lisa Edwards

Adapted from remarks by Rabbi Lisa Edwards at Shabbat services on February 2, 2018.

By now most of you know that Rabbi Heather Miller will be leaving BCC in June. She has accepted an offer to be a rabbi at a wonderful congregation in Orange County.  She’ll probably let us know more about that in the months to come.

You might all guess, and you’d be right, that I am very sad that Rabbi Heather will be leaving us. It’s been no secret that I love being part of a clergy team with Rabbi Heather and Cantor Juval.

Yet as often happens when plans (or colleagues or friends or life itself) go a different way than the way I imagined or dreamed or hoped for, I’m also happy for Rabbi Heather. It does sound like an amazing place and an outstanding opportunity for her.

For six years now — well, really for much longer — Rabbi Heather has been teaching her piece(s) of Torah.  It’s six years that we at BCC have been blessed to receive Rabbi Heather’s Torah — her teachings, her magical additions to the Torah of OUR lives.

There are so many midrashim (legends) about the scene in this week’s Torah portion Yitro — the scene of the Israelites gathering, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of them, at the foot of Mt. Sinai amidst thunder and the blasts of the shofar and the quaking of the mountain, to hear the voice of God deliver to them the Ten Commandments.  The midrashim ask how hundreds of thousands of people could hear God’s voice amidst the thunder and the quaking and the loud blasts of the horns? And some answer that the voice of God must have been thunderous itself to be heard over all that noise.  Indeed, some of the translations we have of that verse in Torah [Exodus 19:19] say God spoke in thunder [the Hebrew reads b’kol, literally “in a voice.”]

And of course, in that very Jewish way, some of the midrashim say just the opposite, that God spoke quietly, that God spoke in a whisper to each of the people gathered there as well as to each of us ever since who read that passage and are transported there in our imaginations.

And some commentators add that God spoke in a whisper to each one of us but did not say the same thing to each of us. God taught each of us a different piece of God’s Torah.  The word Torah means “teaching.”  Imagine it — or maybe you’ve really experienced it — that God spoke in a whisper and taught each of us a piece of Torah that each of us might become the transmitter of our own piece of Torah.

One version of the midrash about each of us having our own piece of Torah to teach is that it makes Torah into a kind of quilt. All of us bring our quilt squares and we weave them together into a whole cloth.  Rabbi Heather has not only been teaching us her Torah — her quilt piece — she’s also been encouraging us in amazing ways to bring our own pieces of Torah to the community as well. Witness Jerry Nodiff and William Garbutt tonight each bringing their piece of Torah (Jerry on his 80th birthday and William on his embrace of the covenant), that together we might weave a quilt or, maybe better, a BCC section of the whole quilt that is Judaism.

Rabbi Heather, I know in the next few months we’ll make opportunities to celebrate and thank you — thank you for being our teacher and our friend and our bringer of Torah, yours and ours, that we might together spread over us a canopy of peace (ufaros aleinu sukkat shalom), of Torah, of Judaism, of community, of love.

Recharging Judaism through Civic Engagement

A conversation with author and activist Rabbi Judy Schindler, hosted by Rabbi Lisa Edwards, Thursday, March 22, 2018, 7:30 pm at BCC.

Join author and activist Rabbi Judy Schindler for a conversation on recharging Judaism through the work of civic engagement in the synagogue.  Beth Chayim Chadashim does not shy away from challenge.  So many of our congregants use their voices and time to create systemic change.  Yet what would it look like if we did this work under the banner of our congregation?

In her new book, Recharging Judaism: How Civic Engagement is Good for Synagogues, Jews and America, Rabbi Schindler and her co-author Judy Seldin-Cohen state the case for how civic engagement can recharge the synagogue. Rabbi Schindler notes that, “As we extend our congregational work into our communities by addressing systemic issues and unjust policies, we create “minyans on the move” where Jewish friendships, community and memories are nurtured.”


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