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September 17, 2021

One of my favorite Jewish stories comes right from the Babylonian Talmud. (Tractate Ta’anit 23a) It speaks of a man named Honi who came upon a man planting a carob tree. Honi stopped and asked, “How long does it take [for this tree] to bear fruit?”

The man replied: “Seventy years.”

Honi then asked him: “Are you certain that you will live another seventy years?”

To which the man replied, “I found [already grown] carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted those for me so I too plant these for my children.”

Honi sat down to have a meal and sleep overcame him. As he slept a rocky formation enclosed upon him which hid him from sight and he slept for seventy years. When he awoke he saw a man gathering the fruit of the carob tree and Honi asked him, “Are you the man who planted the tree?”

The man replied: “I am his grand-son.”

It was so very gratifying to be back on the bimah for High Holy Days this year. The current surge in COVID-19 infections still required us to make significant adjustments to both our worship logistics and the services themselves, but my colleagues and I were grateful to be able to see and hear many of you in the sanctuary. Thank you to Sue Brand, Michael Kanef and all of our ushers for doing a phenomenal job!

I also want to thank all of you for your support, patience with regard to all the pandemic protocols we put in place. Your cooperation made it possible for us to worship together in person while still keeping the health and safety of everyone in mind. The fact that things worked so well also sets the stage for us to be able to open our Religious School this Sunday. And because I know we will all continue working together as partners, I am optimistic we will be able to KEEP the school open.

That’s one of the points of the Honi story. Whether in person or on Zoom, we were able to come together to welcome the New Year because of the love and dedication of countless people who came before us. We are the current caretakers of the synagogue they built.

But we are more than caretakers. TSTI is as strong as it is today because of our collective commitment to the community. And that has never been cleared than it has during this pandemic. After eighteen months of COVID-9 we are as strong as we are today because of all of you. But just as others planted the seeds that we now reap, our dedication today is planting seeds that future generations will reap. Thank you for being part of the TSTI family. And thank you to everyone who has already supported this year’s High Holy Day Appeal. As our co-presidents Elise Joy and Marjie Terry said to eloquently over the Holy Days, your donations help us fulfill our ethical commitment that anyone who wants to be part of the TSTI community can and will be. That, in turn, solidifies the future of Jewish life at 432 Scotland Road. We are living in challenging times, but, thanks to you, the future of TSTI is bright.

Shana Tova-

Rabbi Daniel Cohen