Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thoughts on Next Stage/ Bimah

I shared these remarks with The Davis Academy faculty and staff at our "welcome back breakfast" to start the 2015-2016 school year. As we embark on our Next Stage Capital Campaign I think it is important to explore the resonance of the idea of the "stage."

By now you all likely know about the public launch of our capital campaign which we call "Next Stage." In the few moments that we have together before we dive into the Next Stage of our collective Davis Journey-- the upcoming school year, I want to share a few thoughts about what "Next Stage" means to me and hopefully what it can mean to "us." As you'll see, I think the sanctuary here at Temple Emanu-El is the perfect setting to share these thoughts. That's because the Hebrew word for "stage" is actually a very ancient word, ladden with spiritual and religious significance. The word is "Bimah."

While the word "stage" evokes, at least for me, images of a theater stage, or, more metaphorically refers to an evolution of something or a time to come-- like a stage in our lives, the word bimah has a slightly different resonance.

Bimah literally means a raised platform, or in a more spiritual sense, a high place. Every Jewish house of prayer, including The Davis Academy, has a literal or figurative Bimah. In a spiritual or religious context the Bimah is a place of teaching and learning, a place of connection between teacher and student, between leader and community. At its best, a bimah is a place where human beings can encounter the divine, where heaven and earth kiss. According to Jewish tradition God is everywhere, but the psalmists and our most ancient ancestors also strong felt that God dwelt b'ramot-- on High. Ramah/Ramot and Bimah-- are related words in Hebrew. In ancient times the Bimah was also a place of sacrifice-- of the literal sacrifice of animals, but also of spiritual sacrifice to something greater than ourselves.

The beauty of the word Bimah is that it refers not only to a religious platform, but in modern Hebrew also refers to the stage in a theater. How fitting that our Next Stage campaign will lead to the creation of at least two Bamot-- a bimah in our new spiritual space and a bimah in our new auditorium.

One final thought about the concept of the bimah is that I believe that every educator also has the privilege and the responsibility of standing on a bimah each and every day. Our colleague Rich O'Dell used to have a foot stool in his classroom that he called his "Soapbox" that he would stand on in his rare moments of preaching (until he fell off of it one day and laid it to rest). But I truly believe that each classroom, each place of learning in our Davis community is a type of bimah-- a place where profound teaching emanates, a place of connection, a place of love and learning, a place where students and teachers can, to quote a song, "Rise Up."

I hope that as we all join together to do our part to help bring our beloved Davis Academy Kehillah to the next stage, that this brief detour into the concept of the bimah helps us keep our focus on the uplifting and lofty goals to which we aspire and which we attain with astounding frequency. I look forward to us joining together on the many bimahs that currently exist at Davis while we together envision a future with new bimahs, new possibilities, and unimaginable potential.

In that spirit it's my honor to invite my rabbinical school classmate, my friend, and the new Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, Rabbi Spike (yes, Spike) Anderson, to join me on this bimah so that we might share a few words of blessing before we dive into the busy week ahead.

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