This past Sunday, I joined a dozen of our community members outside Literacy Achieves in West Dallas for the dedication of a Little Free Library, constructed by our social action committee. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the concept (and before they began this project, I wasn’t either!) a Little Free Library is a 6-foot, public space bookshelf. It’s placed outside, in residential neighborhoods, where residents can freely borrow from and continue to stock a collection of books for all ages. Our member, Mindy Fagin, who volunteers at Literacy Achieves, helped oversee the project from start to finish—building, painting, and installing the library in front of Literacy Achieves—as well as the collection of more than 200 books (so many, they couldn’t all fit!)
I was honored to participate in the dedication ceremony and, inspired by the generosity of our members, I wrote the following blessing, which I shared with the community of neighborhood adults and children who were among the first to gather to appreciate this special gift:
"One of the most important ideas in our tradition is that God created the universe with words and ideas. God said, 'let there be light, and there was light.’ There was no physical action involved. God just conceived of light and poof—there it was.
This is a reminder to us that one of the most impact forces we have as humans is the power of our ideas. Ideas can change the world.
But fortunately, we also know from our tradition that the ideas don’t have to be ours alone. We can take the ideas passed down from one generation to the next and, through the passing, transform the idea in ways our grandparents and great-grandparents never could have imagined. That’s why our Torah teaches us in Deuteronomy:
'You shall teach these words, diligently, to your children. You shall speak of them when you sit at home and when you travel on the way.'
Now, I’ve always believed that as important as these words are, they are much easier to fulfill when you are ‘sitting,' when you’re in a classroom, like those in the building behind me. When we are moving, there are so many things to distract you from this important task. And when that happens, unfortunately, the words become closed off from the rest of the world. When it is not 'out there,' the conversation never carries into the community, it never enters the public domain, where it is needed the most.
That’s why this library is such an important contribution to the life of this community. It’s a way to ensure, that as people pass by, 'on the way,' they are given the opportunity to pick up a book, a book that contains powerful ideas that have the potential to uplift and inspire, and use those ideas to make this neighborhood, this community, this city a more sacred place. Like the chanukiah, may it always serve as a beacon of hope for all who bathe in its light."
Mazal tov to our social action committee for undertaking such a wonderful mitzvah!
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share