By Ellen Ruth Topol
On July 19, 2013, Temple Beth-El of City Island held its annual summer Shabbat by the Sea at the exquisite home of Ken Binder and Steve Roth. Ken’s and Steve’s generosity and hospitality are so appreciated by the clergy, Temple members, friends and family all of whom look forward to this service the entire year. And, after the week long heat wave, it was such a treat to be out on the water, even though we were on land. This paradox was explained by Steve who mentioned that this piece of land is as far out as some boats.
As the participants engaged with the service, the slight breeze creased the skin as if each person was touched by the kiss of heaven and awakened to listen to the “still small voice” inside. The trees provided the sanctuary as the wind blew through and those in attendance provided sanctuary for each other. Nature too seemed to participate as the red perfect circle of the sun set at exactly the right moment in the service as the almost full moon rose reminding us that even in darkness G-d shines light. During the service, Rabbi Shohama reminded us of patience and trusting in G-d’s plan for us even when we despair. Nature itself reflected this wisdom.
This year the service focused on the holiday of Tu B’Av, which is a festival of love that invites us to open our hearts in a gentle, loving way. Historically, Tu b’Av is one of the days of finding one’s love as well as a day of social justice and showing deep care among the community.
Reb David explained: “Tu b’Av adds special layers of meaning to our liturgy. Rami Shapiro’s song ‘We are loved by an unending love’ becomes especially true when we shower each other with care, clad in Shabbat white, surrounded by white sails on the harbor and the pastels of a perfect sunset. The love we receive naturally flows out: ‘Shema Yisrael,’ we say, ‘our God is Oneness itself. Let us love with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all we have…..’ ”
Reb David also expressed the social justice aspect of this holiday: “On a day when people would put on their finery to be most pleasing to a potential mate, the poorest of the community might have felt embarrassed or disadvantaged, so the custom arose for rich and poor to exchange clothes. From this we remember not only never to tell a book by its cover, but also to be open in giving and receiving love.”
Of course, Your Shul by the Sea Band, contributed to opening hearts and inspired some to dance as they expressed their inner vibration to the music.
After the service, the festivities continued with an Oneg graciously sponsored by Ken and Steve in honor of their wedding anniversary. People chatted long into the night and the last two participants left after midnight.
Truly, everyone who attended was surrounded by love and experienced the kiss of heaven from above and amongst us. What a wonderful evening and celebration of love!