Rabbi Tzvi Graetz’s comments at Hod veHadar’s 40th anniversary celebration:
As we mark Hod veHadar’s special 40-year anniversary, where do our traditional sources relate to a similar event?
In a psalms recited on Erev Shabbat!
The first of the psalms concludes: “Forty years I was provoked by that generation; I thought, ‘They are a senseless people; they would not know My ways’” (Psalm 95:10), and the next psalm says: “Glory and majesty (Hod veHadar) are before God; strength and splendor are in God’s temple.” (Psalm 96:6).
In the first psalm, we learn how difficult it was for God to deal the people of Israel during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, but in the second psalm, the Israelites change their tune, after airing grievances in the wilderness, they now sing a new song to God, a song of thanks for all the good God does for them. Once they alter their approach from complaint to praise, they can also be a positive influence on everyone around them.
Hod veHadar recently celebrated a 40-year journey. Sometimes, that journey resembled the time the Israelites spent in the desert; or the difficulties faced by the young State of Israel in the years after its establishment, with all of the inherent challenges. Despite the hurdles, the journey has succeeded above all expectations, and Hod veHadar has certainly reached the “Promised Land” in terms of its impressive achievements.
Now is the time to stop for a moment, and celebrate much of all these years. But only for a moment, because there is still a long road ahead. There are many more Bnai Mitzvah who want to experience an Israeli Bar Mitzvah; in particular we need to encourage girls to celebrate their Bat Mitzvah. There are many more families to join. We need to increase Torah study, double the acts of kindness we do, care for the sick, support seniors and older member, and continue being there for each other.
None of this can be done without the special volunteer spirit of the Hod veHadar community. Hod veHadar should serve as a school to teach Israelis about volunteering. We could teach Israeli society about the spirit of volunteering, and build a whole world with the help of people who take responsibility for each other.
We also learn about the importance of cooperation, early in the Book of Exodus when God sends Moses to speak to Pharaoh and Moses refuses, because he feels that he is alone in his mission:
The Eternal, spoke to Moses…. “Speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I will tell you…. But Moses said… See, I am of impeded speech; how then should Pharaoh heed me!” (Exodus 6:29-30)
God hears the plight of Moses and sends his brother, Aaron to help:
The Eternal replied to Moses, “See, I place you in the role of God to Pharaoh, with your brother Aaron as your prophet. You shall repeat all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall speak to Pharaoh to let the Israelites depart from his land. (Exodus 7:1-2)
The Torah describes is a division of labor between Moses and Aaron, who shares the burden with his brother.
Kehillat Hod veHadar was not built by one person. Admittedly, one or two people had the idea of forming a community, but soon additional members joined, and each shared in the burden. As the prophet Isaiah said, “Each one helps the other, Saying to his fellow, “Take courage!” (Isaiah 41:6). When people help each other, they strengthen each other.
Therefore, my wish for the congregation is that to “Be strong and strengthen each other.” Remember, “It is not your duty to complete the task, but you many refrain from it” (Pirkei Avot 2: 16). There is still much work to be done, and together we will be able to grow and become stronger.
With gratitude for the good we have received,
Rabbi Tzvika Graetz
Rabbi Tzvi Graetz has served as rabbi of Kehillat Hod veHadar in Kfar Saba since January 2018. Prior to that, he was the CEO of Masorti Olami and Mercaz Olami, which are responsible for developing Masorti/Conservative Judaism in the Diaspora (outside North American) and strengthening the Zionist idea and centrality of the State of Israel in these communities.
Rabbi Graetz grew up in the Noam youth movement, and continued in the Marom organization of Masorti students in Israel. He studied for the rabbinate in the Schechter Rabbinical School in Jerusalem while working as a leader in the Noam youth movement. He was the spiritual leader of the Shevet Achim community in the Giloh neighborhood of Jerusalem and was rabbi of TALI School in Giloh. He has also served as Vice President of the Israel Rabbinical Assembly, as a Jewish Agency envoy to the United Synagogue of America, he was the founder of the Menucha Nechona Association in Jerusalem and the environs area. He was a member of the Zionist Executive in the World Zionist Organization and a member of the Jewish National Fund’s Board of Directors, on behalf of Mercaz Olami. Rabbi Graetz holds a BA in Talmud and Political Science and an MA in Non-Profit Management from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He recently completed the “Israeli Rabbinate Program” sponsored jointly by the Shalom Hartman Institute and Oranim College..
Rabbi Graetz is married to author Dr. Shirley Graetz. Together they have 3 children and live in Jerusalem.
Recordings of Rabbi Graetz’s classes in Hebrew, may be found on the Hod veHadar YouTube Channel.