Young Israel brings warmth and meaning to Thursday nights
On a chilly Thursday night in late January, twenty people gathered at Young Israel of Margate to take part in the weekly series, Parsha Delights and Bites. The topic for the evening’s lecture: “Who and why we are, and who and why G-d is,” said YI’s Rabbi Yaacov Orimland, who gave the talk.
The evening began with a brief service, followed by a simple but tasty meal before the lecture began. Those in attendance came from near and far.
“I feel so warm here,” said Meir Weinraub, from Passaic, NJ, who tries to come to Young Israel events as often as he can. “It’s a very warm place. That’s why I come. I feel so welcome.”
Sally Mitlas, who recently moved to the area from Ambler, PA, agreed. “You don’t have to be Orthodox to benefit. You can learn a lot about your own people and background, especially from someone as learned as the rabbi.”
“Everyone who has nothing else they need to do should be here on Thursday nights!” she added.
After welcoming everyone, Rabbi Orimland acknowledged that the Parsha Delights lectures had been “getting intense,” mainly because he was talking about a subject that is often avoided but goes to the heart of Judaism: G-d. According to Orimland, at a previous Thursday night talk described by one attendee as “’pretty deep,’” they had thrown out the “floating G-d” that people often imagine. “There is no G-d like that!” declared Orimland.
In Judaism, he said, “there is Hashem. We are part of Hashem and Hashem is part of us.”
Yet he also stressed that while G-d is part of us, and we exist because he brought us and the entire world into being, G-d existed before we did and would continue to exist without us. Drawing on the writings of Maimonides, Orimland told attendees that while G-d is part of us, “his existence is different from ours,” and from everything else in existence, in that G-d did not need a cause to exist, whereas everything else did. “Although G-d created us, his existence does not depend on us.”
“You make it sound like we’re just a hobby!” chimed in one attendee.
“Excellent point,” said Orimland. “Are we his hobby? He created us. What does he need us for? Why did he create us?”
Orimland’s answer: “For a meaningful existence, you need a relationship.” So G-d created the world, and he created us, to have a meaningful existence.
“Similarly, we need relationships to make our lives meaningful. People who have no relationships have empty lives.”
He added that when G-d says in the Torah, “I am Hashem your G-d,” the fact that he refers to himself as “your G-d” is effectively an invitation to have an intimate relationship with Hashem. “The problem is that we don’t stretch our hands out to G-d,” he noted.
Yet having created us, G-d does stretch out his hand to us, and has again and again throughout history. For instance, he reached his hand out to us when we were enslaved in Egypt and when our people were being sent to Nazi gas chambers. In both of these instances, “G-d reached down and took us out” because of our intimate relationship with him. “He does it because he is part of us and we are part of Him.”
“When you look in the mirror tonight,” noted Orimland, “you will see G-d!”
Parsha Delights and Bites is offered every Thursday during the winter season at Young Israel starting at 6:30 p.m. For more information, contact Rabbi Yaacov Orimland at (609) 418-0357.