“Love your Neighbor as Yourself.” This is the essence of the Torah, according to Rabbi Hillel, it is at the heart of the Torah, the center of the 5 books, it is the core of this week’s parsha. It is also the key lesson that I have learned from my 17 years at KI. As this will be my last e-KI it seems fitting that I can write on Achrei-Mot/Kiddushin.
Achrei-Mot means after the death. We learn that Aaron’s sons die after not following God’s instructions properly. Most of my experience in the Jewish community prior to coming to KI was about following procedures and rules. I learned through my internships and the congregations I worked for about how the synagogue worked, how a religious school was supposed to run, and what the details of being a Rabbi Educator encompassed.
At KI, I learned to look beyond the rules, at the people for whom the rules, the systems, and the institutions were created. The night my husband, Rabbi Peter Rigler, was installed, Rabbi Sussman read from a portion of a writing from Dr. Korn about the importance of loving the congregation. In the early years of my time at KI, I would struggle with policies and procedures, families wanting to try things out, kids wanting to push boundaries. In each conversation and every opportunity, I learned that it was not the rule, not the policy, but the person that mattered. It was not about the yes or no, it was about the reasons behind the questions. This did not mean I always said yes, it did mean I always tried to learn more about why and see if there was a how.
I have truly loved my time at KI. I have loved being a part of this community, of watching students who were babies when I arrived, graduate college and start their lives. I have loved making connections with kids, teens, parents and grandparents. I have loved learning from families, lay leaders, and teachers. I have loved working with an incredible education staff; youth group advisors, administrative assistants and colleagues. I am certain my experience has been so rich because of this founding principle – we must, above all, love our neighbors as ourselves.
The parsha goes on to tell us other duties for a holy society, including not reaping all that we can, but leaving for those that need it most so they can come and gather what they need. There are so many in need right now, so many individuals and institutions that are struggling and could benefit from the generosity of others. My last message is this; reflect over this Shabbat, do I have enough? If you do, consider giving to those less fortunate. KI will need your support in the coming months, in order to stay strong and viable.
Thank you for all the support you gave me over the past 17 years and for all you will continue to do to sustain this holy community.
Rabbi Stacy Rigler