Sermon Notes 11/07/15 - Pinchas 5775
The three recent parshiot – Chukat, Balak and Pinchas are texts of
transition. Chukat includes a chronological
transition, in which the narrative skips from the second year of the Israelites’
desert sojourn to the 40th, in which remainder of the Torah takes
place. Balak is a transition of perception,
in which our ancestors emerged from the bubble of the wilderness to experience the hostility of others, presaging much of Jewish
history. And in today’s parashah, Pinchas, the people are prepared for leadership transition – Moshe knows that he will not enter the
Land of Israel and hands the reigns to Yehoshua some months before his actual demise.
This has stimulated me to think about recent transitions in our
community. There have been so many
changes, not least to the physical infrastructure and the way we deploy the
space for davening (more of this in a future sermon and post). But I’d like to focus on the fantastic growth
in the number of young families and small children attending the Shul on
Shabbat morning. In a few years, we’ve changed from a community with just a handful of youngsters to one swamped with babies
and children every week. This is a
tremendous blessing, but also a challenge, as it represents a completely new
demographic reality for our community.
And it’s one that we must get absolutely right to ensure that this
growth continues and everyone, without exception, feels welcome and loved. Periods of transition are fragile and must be
handled extremely carefully.
Many of the new families enjoy participating in tefillah, but others come along only for the children’s programmes or to hang around with their
I am delighted that we can provide a range of Shabbat morning
experiences that attract the widest range of people and this means that there’s
lots of unfamiliar noise every week – the beautiful sound of children playing
and babies crying. We’re
doing our best to try to ensure that davening and children’s programmes are
synchronised and to encourage parents to look out for their children, but it doesn’t
Some of us may be troubled by the new sounds around our building, but
I have one clear message – when there’s a baby crying during the sermon, exuberant
children whooping outside during the kedushah or the announcements are drowned
out by chatter, love it!