Messages from Rabbi Russo

September 9, 2016 - 6 Elul

Many of us felt the whirlwind of this week as summer came to a close, schools began, and one week of Elul passed by.  As we engage with the deep spiritual work of this time of year, we create and try to surpass expectations.  In Parashat Shofetim, we read "Justice, justice shall you pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20).  The continual striving to do better and to be better is captured in this line.  There are so many ways we can apply ourselves to create more justice in our lives and our world.  I share with you a jewel of Elul kavanah about striving to pursue what ought to be better.   
Think ought.
Not what is a Jew, but what ought a Jew to be.
Not what is a synagogue, but what ought a synagogue to be.
Not what prayer is, but what prayer ought to be.
Not what ritual is, but what ritual ought to be.
Focus from is to ought, and our mindset is affected. Is faces me toward the present; ought turns me to the future. Ought challenges my creative imagination and opens me to the realm of possibilities and responsibilities to realize yesterday’s dream.
Ought and is are complementary. Without an is, the genius of our past and present collective wisdom is forgotten. Without an ought, the great visions of tomorrow fade.
Ought demands not only a knowledge of history but of exciting expectation. Is is a being, ought is a becoming.
Ought emancipates me from status quo thinking.
Ought is the freedom of spirit.
Ought we not Ought?
Harold Schulweis z”l, was an activist, author and Rabbi of Congregation Valley Beth Shalom.
During this time of new beginnings, may we all found the courage to pursue the oughts through bettering ourselves, our community, and our pursuance of justice.
Shabbat Shalom.