Clergy’s Corner

Read Rabbi Barras’ Monthly Reflections — “Rav Bar Oz

In this space each month, we feature the writings of one of the members of our Beth Am Clergy. This month we invite Rabbi Judith Kempler to share some thoughts with you.

An Ending and a New Beginning... SHOTS/KEMPLER_judith.gif

On January 1, 2020 approximately 90,000 Jews gathered in MetLife Stadium outside of New York City. It was a scene of wonder, filled with a mix of joy, elation, excitement and relief. The reason for this gathering: not a football game, not a Billy Joel concert. Rather, this new year 2020 brought to a close the 7 1⁄2 year cycle of daily Talmud study known as Daf Yomi. The program of Daf Yomi (which translates in English as “page of the day”) is a regimen of daily study and contemplation, done in concert with thousands of Jews around the world.

The idea for Daf Yomi was initiated in 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro in Sanok, Poland, who would go on to be Rosh Yeshivah of the Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin. Initially, he saw this as something only for the Jews of Poland, but its popularity grew far beyond the yeshiva walls, and now includes Jews from all denominations that span all corners of the globe. This year marked the 13th anniversary of the program of Daf Yomi, a bar mitzvah of sorts, for a program that has given so many Jews a greater sense of discipline, knowledge and spiritual fulfillment. The celebration, known as the Siyyum HaShas, marks both an ending and a new beginning. The cycle starts over in the same moment that it ends.

As I read about the Daf Yomi celebration and contemplated joining the ranks of my colleagues and fellow Talmud enthusiasts in a new chapter of study, another part of my life was coming to a close. As many of you know, Danny and I gave birth to our daughter Ava on September 1, 2019. She is a miracle and a joy. Our older children, Zoe and Zack, adore her and over the last few months we’ve adjusted to life with an infant (again!) and our expanded identity as a family of five.

During this time, it became clear to me that the needs of our family are great and they needed more of my undivided attention. After much contemplation, I made the difficult decision to resign from my position as rabbi at Temple Beth Am.

This is an extremely bittersweet moment for me. I am in the midst of my 10th year at Temple Beth Am and I have loved each day of being a rabbi in our sacred community. I came to Beth Am straight out of rabbinical school, “green” and eager to learn from a congregation that strove to be a place of spiritual growth, scholarship and experimentation. I was and continue to be inspired by the ways we push ourselves to do more and better: to be a place that embraces change. A place that says yes to new ideas. A place that continues to expand its reach to be a home to so many.

Dear Beth Am Community, thank you for embracing me as your teacher, pastor and spiritual leader. Thank you for opening your hearts to my family and me. Thank you for trusting me in times of your greatest joy and deepest sorrow. I am eternally grateful for all that you have shared with me in these last 10 years.

Rabbi Judith Kempler

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