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Naming our Synagogue for Rabbi Weinberg

May 8, 2009 | by Ahron Hoch

The Village Shul in Toronto pledges to uphold the lofty principles.

On the night that Rabbi Weinberg passed away, we quickly put together a memorial evening at the Village Shul in Toronto. It struck me when one of the congregants came over to me and said, "You know, I would not be here if not for Rabbi Weinberg." Then another congregant said, "This location would still be a gas station, if not for Rabbi Weinberg."

Twenty-eight years ago, five families opened up Aish HaTorah Toronto. We came with a determination to change the city positively, and we understood the power of the principles that Rabbi Weinberg taught us.

Rabbi Weinberg taught me the reality of Tikkun Olam and Kiddush Hashem and what a privilege it is to help Jews wake up to that destiny. It became obvious to me that this concept was exactly what is needed to avoid our slipping into the problems that exist in many synagogues. Many synagogues have difficulty with being and staying relevant because their goals are inward. However, if you build a community whose goals are focused outward, whose goals include committing themselves to work towards the renaissance of the Jewish people, then you will produce a community that will have energy and be great for a very long time.

The Village Shul has been here for over 15 years, and our name carries with it the reputation of warmth, non-judgmentalism, dynamism and growth. We took an English word, "village" and made it holy. We will always be known by that name. However, I realized that we also need a Hebrew name. Many people are known by their English name, but something would be missing if they didn't have a Hebrew name.

Our Hebrew name needs to be one that will always inspire us to live up to Rabbi Weinberg's ideals. It has to be a name that will remind us of the fact that we are in G-d's image and to never give up on our potential. It has to be a name that will remind us that our role in the world is to perfect it, and that we are responsible to do what we can to move that dream forward. In short, one that reminds us of all Rabbi Weinberg's principles. The name has to be one that shows gratitude to the past and inspires our future.

We therefore have the privilege to be the first community in the world to name itself to memorialize Rabbi Weinberg: Kehillas Mishkan Noach -- the Congregation of the Sanctuary of Noach.

Why the name Mishkan?

The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was the home where the Almighty and the Jewish people lived together. The name reflects that this "home," The Village Shul, was built on Rabbi Weinberg's principles.

The Mishkan was the place where a person encountered empirically the Almighty. Very few in this generation were able to get us to feel the reality of our relationship to the Almighty like Rabbi Weinberg. It represents that we have strived and want to continue to be a place that a person walks into and is woken up to the power and sweetness and meaning of a relationship with G-d.

The Mishkan was a place where every article conveyed how a person, through Torah and mitzvot, could achieve perfection. Rabbi Weinberg got us to appreciate that reality, and we are a community that is striving to constantly grow.

Every aspect of the Mishkan taught us what the perfected world, both for Jew and non-Jew, could look like. Rabbi Weinberg taught us to see it, too.

The Mishkan in the desert was a traveling sanctuary that had not yet reached its goal, namely the Land of Israel. The name represents that we are still on the road of bringing the world and the Jewish people to perfection.

I know that Rabbi Weinberg would have been much more interested in our concentrating on the second reason for the name. He was not a person looking for thank yous because he was "lishma," someone who worked "for the sake of Heaven." All he wanted was for Jews to actualize their greatness. All he wanted was for Jews to commit to the renaissance of the Jewish people and the fixing up of the world. This is the most important part of what his legacy means to us.

Greater Growth

For years I have been saying that our Toronto community does not appreciate its potential for greatness. It is a community filled with talent. It is a community filled with a "can do" attitude. It is a community filled with creative thinkers, and I believe that we must use Rabbi Weinberg's legacy for a new phase of growth for ourselves. It is the time for us to start a new phase for our community. It is time for me to stop saying, "You don't yet know your potential." Now is the time for us to say, "We do know our potential!" It is time for us to grow to a new level regarding being ambitious to become one of the pre-eminent role model communities in the Jewish world. It is time for us to grow to new levels of being outward focused. It is time for us to grow to new levels of relating to our Torah as a Toras Chaim. It is the time to grow to a new level of not being scared to identify oneself as being part of a community that wants to save the Jewish people.

There is one other announcement to make regarding how to use Rabbi Weinberg's passing away for greater growth. I feel very strongly that it's time for our mission statement to reflect our striving to make an even greater impact. Therefore, at the special Board meeting last Thursday night, we changed our mission statement to convey that not only are we looking to "effect positive change in the Toronto Jewish community," but also that we are looking "to effect positive change in the world." The mission statement has been very important to us. It has unified us and has kept us all clear of what it means when we say "The Village Shul community."

It is my prayer that we will use the passing and legacy of Rabbi Weinberg to bring his soul great merits, and I hope that in years to come we will look back at this as the start of a new phase in the development of a very great community.

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