Installation of Rabbi Randall J. Konigsburg

Shavua Tov!Rabbis Konigsburg

It is such an honor for me to be here tonight, for the installation of my father Rabbi Randall Konigsburg.

Just this morning we read about the details, rites and rituals of the portable sanctuary. Over and over, we read that all was built to precise specification, according to God’s instructions. For example, one verse reads:

ויעש משה ככל אשר צוו ה’ אותו כן עשה

And Moses did all that God commanded him to do, so he did. (Exodus 40:16)

This idea is reiterated over and over in parashat pekudei. All the instructions were followed and a holy space was built.

Hopefully by now, you’ve meet Rabbi Randall Konigsburg, and you know that he’s passionate about building holy spaces.

What you may not yet know, is that his Hebrew name is also Moshe and like his namesake, he is passionate about following God’s commands. He often describes his rabbinate as going where G-d sends him. Fortunately for him, he’s ended up here, at Temple Beth El.

Within seconds of walking into this building it’s evident what a special place the Beth El community is. To say that y’all are friendly and warm hardly does justice to the hospitality you extend. You take such pride in your community and are only too happy to share your enthusiasm with those who walk in the door.

And look at the community you’ve built.  Of course you have an impressive building, but more importantly it’s full of people who care about one another, and who support each other on their Jewish journeys. So many of you have told me how pleased you are that my parents have found their way to Temple Beth El. And I know my father (and my mother) feel equally blessed to have ended up a part of the Temple Beth El community.

So let me tell you a little more about you new rabbi, and my father, Rabbi Randall Konigsburg.

To understand Rabbi Konigsburg, you have to know a couple of things:

First of all, his quest to learn new things is endless. If there’s an opportunity to learn anything, you’ll find him studying it. And he’s doubly committed to learning because it makes him a better rabbi. As times change, so has he. Though he finished rabbinical school in the early 80’s this constant pursuit of new knowledge has equipped him well to be a 21st century rabbi. He’s an early adopter. Not because he’s attracted to shiny new things, (He didn’t get a DVD player until after I graduated high school, which made us the last family on the block, by far). But if something shows promise in helping to bring Torah to Jews, or if there’s a new idea for helping Jews to help each other and the world, he’s game.

But, don’t let me give you the wrong impression. Rabbi Konigsburg is also very grounded in the past. He loves studying traditional Jewish texts and history of any sort. When looking for answers and inspiration, he’ll turn to the past, as well as the future. He’s a master of identifying music from the 60’s within only a couple of bars. And he knows how to find the right source of comfort be it from the Talmud or from a Kipling poem.

What Rabbi Konigsburg wants most is to make a difference to the individuals he serves. To be there when you need him, hopefully for more happy ones than sad. The joy he gets from this is impossible to describe.

Typically at an installation, the installing rabbi will impart some wisdom or advice.  And for a while, I was really stumped as to what I could say tonight. After all, almost every useful tidbit I know, I learned from you!

Then I realized that there is one area where you do seek my council– social media- and so I’ve got three pieces of advice for you tonight based on three of my favorite technology tools Google, Facebook and Twitter:

  1. If you don’t know, ask Google. These days, more than ever, anything you want to know has probably been posted online. The trick is to figure out how to ask the question so as you get the right answer. Take the time to think carefully and the whole Internet can be at your fingertips. You can find out just about anything if you can figure out how to ask.
  2. Spend time on Facebook. No, not clicking on Buzzfeed links or watching the Upworthy videos. Instead use Facebook as a tool for building relationships. If you spend more time listening to others rather than broadcasting your own thoughts, your life and theirs will be enriched and your relationships deeper.
  3. Learn to use Twitter. I admit that Twitter takes a while to get into. But using it can help broaden your perspective and bring new ideas into your orbit. The best users learn to frame their real-life experiences for the public interest. Suddenly it’s not about you, but about why what you’re doing matters. Using Twitter in this way is a helpful framing for seeing how your place in the world ties into the lives of so many others.

I started this address tonight by telling this congregation about your thirst for learning, the importance you attribute to deep relationships with congregants, and by noting how you aspire to make a difference.  Ultimately, Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all just tools. Tools to extend the reach of the skills you’ve already mastered.

Today was also shabbat shkalim. We read about the census taken of the people of Israel. We are told that all eligible adults must contribute a half shekel. Not a shekel, which might seem like a more obvious amount, but a half shekel.

Why? There’s a lesson we can draw from the collection of half a shekel: None of us, on our own, are able to sustain the community, we need one another to make up the rest of our shekel.

Rabbi Konigsburg if you are to be successful in leading this community, you won’t do it alone. You’ll need to partner with the leadership to make it so.

And importantly, the Torah also says that us that everyone must contribute. To be successful, everyone in the community must participate.  So while tonight we celebrate the installation of Rabbi Konigsburg, each of you must remember that you have a part. And together, your contributions will build on Temple Beth El’s successes and your community will continue to grow.

Mazal Tov!