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Since January 2018, Beth El Synagogue in Durham, North Carolina, has met at nearby Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church while its building is being renovated. So when people across the country gathered for Solidarity Shabbat on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, one week after 11 people were killed in a mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the service in Durham offered a unique opportunity for the two congregations to build on their interfaith relationship.
For the Shabbat services, Beth El Rabbi Emeritus Steven Sager invited the Rev. Katie Crowe, Trinity Avenue Presbyterian’s senior pastor, and Imam Mowlid Khalif Ali, of Durham’s Jamaat Ibad Ar-Rahman, to speak to the congregation.
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The following are the three clergy members’ messages, reflecting on the section of the Torah read at the service. Crowe’s text is printed in its entirety; Sager’s and Ali’s are adapted from extemporaneous remarks they made that day.
Moments - Ours - Obligation - Response - Service
We do not choose our tragic moments. Ours is the obligation of response, enlisting in our service the elements of tradition -- of mind and spirit -- available to us. The Torah portion awaiting us on this first Shabbat after the tragedy in Pittsburgh is Hayyei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18). These are the Torah’s first available materials from which we summon the dignity of response.
The story begins with the death of Sarah and ends with the consent of Rebecca to leave her land, birthplace and father’s house to become the wife of Isaac. Abraham’s servant is the one who literally walks this story from Canaan to Mesopotamia, from its sad and urgent beginning to its successful end. He becomes a hero of prayer-joined-to-action when he lifts to prayer a plan that does not plead for the miraculous. It relies upon the continuation of the hesed --...
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