Rabbi Joshua Leighton
I believe that being Jewish and living a Jewish life cannot be complete without having a strong grasp of the foundations of our tradition. As such, in all congregational or community activities that I lead or participate in, I always find opportunities to incorporate teachings about our history, our theology, and the meanings behind our prayers, holidays, and rituals. I accomplish this through engaging, accessible, and relevant sermons, classes, and informal conversations. There is always more to learn and none of us, myself included, will ever truly know all that there is to know about the Jewish past. Our modern take on Judaism is based on the ancient rabbinic teaching “v’talmud Torah k’neged kulam,” the assertion that study is equal to all other acts of loving-kindness. By linking our past to our present I help everyone develop a deeper understand of our rich traditions, both the timely and timeless meanings behind them; laying the foundation for a strong future.
I believe in providing opportunities to rejoice in our tradition as individuals and as a community so that we may celebrate with and support each other whenever possible. In more places than I could count, our tradition instructs us to rejoice and be happy on our holidays and in fulfilling our commandments. The Book of Proverbs teaches, “A merry heart is a good medicine, but a broken spirit dries bones.” (17:22) When we experience Judaism first-hand we are able to truly feel the joy that comes from spirituality, from learning, and from being part of something bigger than ourselves.
Whether it is the satisfaction of learning even just a few Hebrew letters or mastering an entire Torah portion; whether it is finding a personal connection with God or delighting in the energy of communal prayer; and whether it is the thrill of private study and reflection or the pleasure of meeting new people and making new friends, I ensure that we all find joy in the various facets of Jewish life.
Judaism as a religion and as a people would fail if we were not able to make personal connections to our tradition and to find meaning in living a Jewish life. Our tradition is so varied and contains so many gems that there is something with which each and every one of us can relate. I make Judaism come alive for all of us, in services, in religious school, in youth activities, and in personalized life-cycle events in the synagogue, in our communities, in our homes, and in our hearts.
In our lives we undertake the bold endeavor of trying to live in close relationship with God. Two of our greatest commentators, Maimonides and Nachmonides, differ in their beliefs of how we can experience God. Maimonides teaches that we can only experience and understand God through intellectual pursuits. Nachmonides teaches that we seek an even greater closeness or nearness to God called “d’veikut:” a more metaphysical and spiritual understanding and experience of God. I strive to support personal exploration of the idea of God, helping others draw closer to however they understand the divine.
I believe that our relationships with each other are equally as important as our relationships with God. Judaism becomes ever more personal when we develop authentic relationships within our Jewish community. My rabbinate has been, and always will be, about establishing meaningful relationships with congregants, families, the congregation as a whole, and our greater community. In a Jewish community we learn from and support each other; we lift each other up, making the experience of Judaism that much greater.
I empower the members of my community to take ownership of the aspects of Judaism that speak to them. I mentor others as they spark their own relationships with tradition. I help to guide them towards being confident in their Jewish identities and practice. I see my role as coach and
counsel; teacher and student; pastor and friend.
As a rabbi I continually encourage others—those with whom I work, whom I teach, and from whom I learn—to look at our tradition with youthful wonder and unbridled joy. I foster excitement in the experience and study of Judaism and help everyone make personal connections within our tradition. I look forward to serving a congregation committed to these goals. Above all, I look forward to accomplishing this together as we put the Foundation, Unbridled joy, and Nearness into Jewish life.
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