Confirmation- A Letter from the Rabbi

Dear Confirmation Families,

Shavuot commemorates our ancestors' history-the transforming encounter at Sinai, fifty days after the Exodus from Egypt.  The timeless memory of the receiving of the Ten Commandments at that time, inspired one of Reform Judaism's most creative innovations, the ceremony of Confirmation.  For Reform Jews, each new generation was challenged to symbolically  make the ascent to Sinai, receive the Torah for themselves, and confirm their own commitment to our faith.

The Ten Commandments are revered by both Judaism and Christianity, as the moral foundation of our civilization.  While the Torah employs ritual and ceremony as symbolic expressions of eternal and universal spiritual values, it is the underlying ethical principles that are paramount.  This  is nowhere more clearly reflected than in the Ten Commandments from which our students will read.  

At Shavuot, we are called to renew our Confirmation vows... and together to ascend Sinai anew... receiving the Torah for ourselves-for our own time and place-exemplifying its sacred ideals in our lives.

I invite you, our Confirmation Class, to be in conversation with the text.  No one has yet written or proclaimed the last word.  I want to challenge you to be part of the ongoing dialogue and discussion about Torah.  Torah is not the exclusive domain of previous generations or rabbis.  It is yours.  It is your heritage and therefore your responsibility to keep up the conversation.  Think of a group of people in a circle playing hackey sack, where the point is not to drop the object, but to keep it going.  That is your task.  Keep it going.

Judaism demands that you think, that you process, that you reflect, that you study and struggle with the tradition and with your responses.  From the role of the Talmud and text, we learn that life is not black or white, nor is it grey.  Sometimes it is black and white, and maybe even grey, all simultaneously.  

This year, whether you realize it or not, we will study Torah, Bible, and Talmud.  We will read the Torah and then see how the midrash elucidates, clarifies, and sometimes modifies the text.  We will look at Responsa literature, and come to understand the need for a code of Jewish law.  And with all this, we will only scratch the surface.

I pray that you will come away from this ultimate year of your religious school experience knowing three things:  that you love Judaism, that you realize how little of it you could possibly have learned in your hours here, and more importantly, that you harbor a thirst and strong desire to learn more.

I particularly look forward to traveling to Washington, D.C. with you, to participate in our Religious Action Center's L'Taken Seminar.  There, you will gain an appreciation of Torah's relevance to life in today's world.  You will also learn how each of us can make a significant difference in our country.

Next, I hope that you continue to maintain your Jewish relevance.  Whether you are in class with one other student or a hundred, your personal journey is the most important.  While we place enormous importance on community and a minyan, the minyan is composed of individuals and each journey is essential to its success.  Continue to explore ritual and its meaning and please, whether at camp or through LaFTY and NFTY and into college, continue to find personal expression in the rich and varied traditions of Judaism and its many opportunities for a spiritual encounter with God.

Our tradition celebrates life and living, and offers keys to understanding how to live a meaningful life.  My greatest prayer is that your Confirmation will be a pledge to do your part, to keep Judaism alive.  By studying its texts, by arguing about their meaning, by debating their applications, by experimenting with traditions, by encountering others in the journey, we are nourished by Judaism, and we create nourishment for others.  

Am Yisrael Chai... through you, the Jewish people live on!

I look forward to studying with you and leading you on this journey.

Rabbi Barry Block                                                                                         *Based on an earlier letter by Rabbi David A. Lipper

2015 Congregation B'nai Israel
Confirmation Class and teachers with Sen. John Boozman

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3700 Rodney Parham Rd
Little Rock, AR 72212



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