As most of you know, Sid and I live in Maine so we travel 2 ½ hours most every weekend to be part of our Ruach community. We have been doing this now for almost 10 years. My friends and neighbors here in Maine cannot imagine why we go to such great lengths literally since we are also very connected in many ways to our local community as well.
When we fell in love with this area in Maine, there were naysayers back in Massachusetts who were predicting the short time before we would no longer be regular attendees at Ruach. Not only during that time did I serve two three year terms as president, but I am, once again, president of Ruach. Our commitment has not wavered.
Are we nuts? Stubborn? Perhaps. Yet I think the real answer lies in the special community that we experience at Ruach Israel. This conclusion was made all the more evident this past weekend as we celebrated its 40th birthday with Rabbi Rich, and Rebetzen Sue, at its helm. Rabbi Rich was honored by so many there, and via video, as an incredibly gifted leader who has clearly been the human source of Ruach Israel’s success and recognition throughout the wider Messianic Jewish community as a flagship congregation leading our movement with its visionary initiatives. We are also blessed to have Rabbi Nathan, and Rebetzen Raina, further bringing innovations built on this solid foundation for our next generations.
So much to say. I can’t even begin to capture the immensity of the occasion – outstanding services, inspired sermons and presentations, anointed music. If you weren’t there, I’m sure much will make it to our website. My message today is one take away that I now more deeply understand.
Speaking from personal experience, I have been an active member of religious communities throughout my life. As a child I attended synagogue and Sunday School regularly. As an adult, I was a founding member of the mainstream synagogue I served for almost 30 years. And yet, when I moved away I did not feel a tug to go back. When I became a believer in Yeshua in 2001, I only had the opportunity to attend Beth Messiah In Columbus, Ohio for a little over a year before I moved to the Boston area and began to attend Ruach Israel. Yet more deep friendships were created during that one year at Beth Messiah than I had experienced in all of the prior years combined at my other synagogues. Now at Ruach, we drive the miles, because Ruach Israel is more than a synagogue, even more than a community, it is my spiritual family. From the one baby there at the time we joined, to today, experiencing many bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, and funerals, together, Sid and I are blessed to be part of something not just a place of worship.
Why such deep connections? It can’t be just the amount of time spent, for I have those same feelings about Beth Messiah and those with whom I sojourned for such a short while.
The answer, in my opinion, is the presence of Yeshua. As a mainstream Jew, I prayed to God “up there”. As a Messianic Jew, I am with Him here. I feel His presence during services deeply, and in the interactions with my brothers and sisters in Him. We work to bring God front and center in our daily lives, not just off the shelf at holidays and on special days. We make our mistakes – together. We celebrate our good times – together. We comfort each other – together.
Clearly in our busy and mobile society, and even given the fact that many others travel long distances to attend Ruach Israel, our feeling connected is not always face to face. That situation is not dissimilar to when our nuclear families grow, off to college, get married, move away. Yet the bond continues for it is a spiritual connection. Times away are sometimes good. Sid and I will spend some time in Florida again this year where we will be bringing together other Ruachites who now live “coincidentally” close to our place there near some of my mainstream Jewish family who are curious about Messianic Judaism. We’re planning a little local music havurah. Some travel to far away areas needing His light and help from others. When we return from our times away we are all the more aware of how special is our Ruach family. We recharge our family love batteries once we return home.
We were honored last weekend to have State Senator Rebecca Rausch and State Representative Denise Garlick speak to our many attendees and present us with a Proclamation on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts House of Representatives and State Senate. I quote in part:
“ . . . [S]incerest congratulations to Congregation Ruach Israel in recognition of forty years of providing faith and family to members of our community in Needham. . . “ signed by several legislators as well as the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. Faith and family – the message resounds even outside of our walls.
I encourage you to not take for granted the importance of being part of a faith filled community, and if you are able to be part of ours, in person or virtually, cherish and participate in the opportunity.