Sunday, February 21, 2010

For Shabbat T'Rumah

By Susan Esther Barnes

Last weekend the Torah portion was T’Rumah. That’s the portion that starts with Exodus Chapter 25 in which God tells Moses to take from the people whatever their heart moves them to give in order to build the tabernacle so God may dwell among them as they travel in the wilderness.

Last year the staff and clergy at our synagogue decided to use Shabbat T’Rumah as an opportunity to thank the people who volunteer to help people in the larger community, outside of the synagogue. This year they decided to use it to thank the people who volunteer for the benefit of people within the synagogue community.

On Friday afternoon I received an email from the synagogue asking me to say a few words at services that night about why I volunteer and what it means to me. My first reaction was, “No way.” There wasn’t much time to think of something to say, and I couldn’t imagine I could come up with anything that wouldn’t sound lame. But I thought I’d take a stab at it, and when I got near the end of the page there were tears in my eyes, so I thought, “Well, maybe other people will think it’s lame but there must be something here.”

So I answered the email, agreeing to say a few words. Apparently it wasn’t totally lame, since after services two other women said it made them cry. Below is what I said:

I don’t think it’s possible for me to convey to you why I do what I do here or what it means to me, but I’m going to try.

Some of you have heard me talk about how, three and a half years ago at High Holy Day services, I felt lonely and invisible because after 4 years of being a member here I still didn’t know anyone. Some of you have heard me say I decided to remedy the situation by getting involved here.

I can tell you now my efforts have been successful beyond my wildest dreams.

Instead of feeling invisible, I now know if I don’t arrive at least a half an hour before services on Friday night, I’ll be greeted by a chorus of people saying, “You’re late!” Where it used to be impossible for me to find a single familiar face, it is now impossible for me to sneak by without receiving a host of smiles and hugs. While ten years ago on my birthday I sat alone on my bed watching TV while I ate cake from a to-go container, last week on my birthday, for the first time in my life, I sat among a group of friends who sang “Happy Birthday” to me in Hebrew.

So no, I don’t think I can convey to you why I do what I do here or what it means to me, but I can tell you I don’t plan to stop.

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